Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a 12-part series in which Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich analyzes players who will vie for starting jobs or other important roles during training camp, which opens to the public July 25 in Berea.
BATTLES OF BEREA: KICKERS AND PUNTERS
Players to watch: Kickers — Brandon Bogotay (6-foot-3, 207 pounds, rookie) and Shayne Graham (6-foot, 210, 12th year). Punters — T.J. Conley (6-1, 215, second year) and Spencer Lanning (5-11, 200, first year).
2012 stats: Kickers — Bogotay (did not play last season) and Graham (with Houston Texans, including postseason — 37-of-44 on field goals, 84.1 percent, 48-of-48 on extra points, 102 kickoffs with 29 touchbacks). Punters — Conley (did not play last season) and Lanning (did not play last season).
Analysis: Graham earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2005 and ranks fifth in league history with a career field-goal percentage of 85.4 (245-of-297). However, resumes won’t matter as much as production in camp and preseason games while the competition to replace standout kicker Phil Dawson continues to unfold. Bogotay, who hasn’t played since his final season at the University of Georgia in 2011, has a stronger leg than Graham, giving him an early lead in the race. In practices open to the media this offseason, Bogotay had a slight edge on long field goals and a noticeable advantage on kickoffs. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has indicated that he doesn’t expect to keep two kickers, so one job is up for grabs. Although Bogotay has impressed in the kicking duel, neither punter trying to succeed Reggie Hodges has clearly separated himself thus far. Conley was the New York Jets’ main punter in 2011, but inconsistent performances last preseason led to him being cut Sept. 4. He then sat out all season. Conley and Lanning have actually competed against each other before. Lanning was with the Browns last year in training camp before being cut Aug. 26. The Jets claimed him off waivers two days later. Conley beat out Lanning but was then jettisoned in favor of Robert Malone, who held the job all last season with the Jets. It’s possible the Browns could still acquire other kickers and punters because several specialists throughout the league are released every year before the start of the regular season.
Coming Thursday: Return men