BEREA—For 14 seasons, the Browns didn’t have to worry about their kicker.
Phil Dawson was the team’s kicker from 1999-2012. However, he left as an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season and the Browns have tried to fill his shoes the last two seasons with veteran journeymen Billy Cundiff and Garrett Hartley.
The Browns released Hartley before training camp and decided to pit the two young kickers who have never kicked in a regular season game against one another in training camp.
It appears Travis Coons has prevailed—at least for now.
“Statistically, it was almost a dead heat, especially when you put all of the practice stuff in,” Mike Pettine said. “I would say that he’s got a slightly bigger leg. Carey (Spear) was a guy I thought got the ball up in the air a little bit better so you could really compare the kicks, but Travis has a slightly bigger leg, but it was close. It was not an easy decision.”
Coons is one-of-one in field goal attempts and three-of-three on extra points. Carey Spear was two-of-two in field goals and made all four of his extra points. Spear hit a 47-yard field goal against the Redskins in the first preseason game and a 36-yard attempt against Tampa Bay, while Coons hit a 41-yard attempt in the second preseason game against the Bills.
Coons was originally signed by the Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and after spending training camp with Tennessee was released. Coons played in 26 career games in college at Washington and connected on 24-of-30 field goals in his career for 80 percent. He also punted and averaged 40.1 yards on 116 punts.
Coons said he’s not taking anything for granted.
“Nothing is set in stone yet,” Coons said. “I am just here trying to focus on myself and do what I need to do and whatever that is to help the Cleveland Browns.”
Coons said he still has work to do.
“I need to work on a lot still,” he said. “I need to get better on my kickoffs. I need to get better on my field goals. Making one field goal is not going to seal anything. I need to go out there and keep competing like every day is my last.”
Spear was originally signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and spent the preseason with Philadelphia. After being released, Spear was signed by the Browns. In his college career at Vanderbilt, Spear hit 39-of-50 field goal attempt (78 percent). Spear was born in Mayfield Heights and went to Mayfield High School.
If the Browns decide to go with a rookie, Pettine said he’s comfortable if special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is. He also said that the Browns might still be open to bringing in another kicker, depending on other team’s final roster cuts.
“I am going to rely on Tabes (Chris Tabor) and his opinion with it,” Pettine said. “Rookie kickers play. It is no different. They have to put the ball through the uprights. I have seen rookie kickers come in this league and be very successful. I am not that concerned about that. I think the competition has really been great for both of them as far as working under pressure, knowing I have a guy right next to me that is ready to take the job if I miss this kick. That could be the end of it for me.
“Those guys have been dealing with NFL type pressure now since the day we moved on from (Garrett) Hartley and they knew it was essentially a two-horse race,” he said. “We have been very open with them about there were not going to be any winner by default. Our kicker could be outside the building. Those guys have both kicked well and have done a nice job handling the pressure.”
Roster Cuts: To get down to 75 by 4 p.m the Browns made the following moves. They terminated the contract of DL Phil Taylor and released K Carey Spear, DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and FB Luke Lundy.
Lewis Likely will Start: With QB Josh McCown already been given the final preseason game off and QB Johnny Manziel not throwing, QB Thad Lewis will get the start against the Bears Thursday. Lewis is listed as the third quarterback and if the Browns choose to keep just two quarterbacks, Lewis might not be with the team come this weekend.
However, Lewis is looking at the last game as an opportunity to show what he can do.
“I never know, don’t even look at it like that,” Lewis said. “Just try to take it one day at a time. Just trying to worry about the things I can control, and that’s me going out there, putting my best foot forward, playing every play like it’s my last and giving it everything that I’ve got.”
Manziel did not throw again during the portion of practice open to the media.
Injury Update: OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DB Pierre Desir (concussion), DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (knee), DB Charles Gaines (hamstring), RB Duke Johnson Jr. (concussion), FB Luke Lundy (concussion), LB Nate Orchard (back), QB Connor Shaw (right thumb), TE Randall Telfer (foot), and RB Glenn Winston (knee) did not practice, but Bowie and Shaw were placed on season-ending injured reserve. Ekpre-Olomu, Winston and Telfer were placed on Non-football Injury list and can begin practicing between week 6 and 11. If they’re not activated within three weeks after that, they will stay on the reserve list.
Not on the field during the portion of practice open to the media were Desir, Orchard, Lundy and Johnson.
Gaines and Gilbert were on the side with trainers as was OL Joe Thomas and WR Brian Hartline. Thomas was given a veteran day of rest and Pettine said that Hartline had his foot stepped on and just gave him the day off.