CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns rookie punter Jamie Gillan has had a strong first season in the National Football League after making and remaining on the 53-man roster with a solid showing as a kicker and holder over the last six months.
Although Gillan has had success in his first NFL season, his special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, is not convinced the punter from the Scottish Highlands belongs in the Pro Bowl this year.
“No, I do not think so,” Priefer said prior to Thursday’s practice. “I am just going to be honest. I would let you know if I thought he did. I think Jamie is a very good punter. I think he is going to get better and better and better, and there are better punters than him right now out there that have performed better this year.”
After a standout career at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Gillan earned his way onto the Browns’ 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and unseated a Pro Bowl-caliber punter, Britton Colquitt, along the way by working on his holding and producing well throughout the offseason program, training camp and in preseason games.
Gillan enters this week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, having launched 52 punts for 2,403 yards, an average of 46.2 yards per kick, with only five touchbacks and 24 landing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Gillan has a long kick of 71 yards.
Gillan is third in the AFC in punting average, tied for 13th in net average (40.7 yards per punt) and sixth in the conference in punts landing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Gillan was honored with one AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award earlier this season.
“You just have to be more consistent,” Priefer said. “Is he a Pro Bowl talent punter? Absolutely. Is he ready to be on the Pro Bowl roster this year? I do not think so. I think there are two or three out of AFC punters that have probably had better years than him.
“Honestly, we have to protect better for him, we have to cover better for him and he has to perform more consistently, and we will get him to that level.”
Gillan has a chance to add to his impressive stat line when the Browns take on the Cardinals Sunday, and Priefer is looking for all of his specialists to use the favorable conditions at State Farm Stadium to their advantage.
“I told our guys, ‘Take advantage of that stadium, but do not take it for granted,’” Priefer said. “In other words, do not go in there thinking, ‘I do not have to worry about technique. I can go out and just do what I do, and hopefully, it work out.’ No, they still need to focus on catching the field goal snap.
“We need to focus on snapping the ball. We need to focus on our kickoff steps and our field goal steps. All those things that we work on constantly to be successful in the windy stadium, we have to do the same thing and just take advantage of the great weather and the great venue.”