Despite some recent uncertainty surrounding the kicker position, the Cleveland Browns will go with Chase McLaughlin for Week 1.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed on Monday that McLaughlin will be the kicker for his squad when they take the field for Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We go into Game 1 with Chase for sure. It is a competition at every position throughout the season, but the plan was always to have two kickers on the roster.”
The Browns added Chris Naggar to their practice squad this week, revving up the battle for the starting kicker position once again. McLaughlin was trying to beat out Browns’ incumbent kicker Cody Parkey in camp. Parkey ended up tweaking his quad and was waived after the injury, giving McLaughlin the job by default.
Naggar is an undrafted free agent that signed to the New York Jets out of SMU. He began his collegiate career at Texas before transferring to SMU for his redshirt senior season. He was the AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, making 17 of his 21 field goal and 43 of 46 extra points (93.5).
Naggar made some noise on social media by showing off his big leg, hitting from 70 yards.
Browns Defense Rejuvenated Heading Into Week 1
After the long weekend, the Browns returned rejuvenated for game week, especially on the defensive side of the ball. For the first time since July, the unit was intact, with multiple players — including Greedy Williams, Sione Takitaki and Grant Delpit — returning from some injuries suffered in camp. The Browns could have as many as nine new starters on the defensive side of the ball.
“That’s been the plan all along is to make sure you’re sharp and you’re fresh,” Stefanski said. “We had some guys working through some injuries and continue to do that, but that’s kind of been the plan. Hopefully, guys continue to progress.”
The only player on the sideline was reserve guard Michael Dunn. While Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot has reported that the Browns will have Odell Beckham Jr. and others ready for Week 1, Stefanski isn’t showing his cards just yet.
“For all of the guys, I think we are going to use today and the next few days to see where everybody is and then ultimately make decisions on how this week goes,” he told reporters.
Chiefs Safety Tyrann Mathieu’s Status Uncertain
While the Browns appear to be nearing full strength, the Chiefs have to wait and see if star safety Tyrann Mathieu will be cleared to return following testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
“We just have to wait that out and see where he’s at,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters.
Mathieu was a key player during the Chiefs playoff victory against the Browns last season, notching seven tackles and an interception.
The Chiefs are six-point home favorites for the matchup but get a Browns team that is loaded with talent and trending upward. The Cleveland players and coaching staff should also benefit from a year of continuity with Kevin Stefanski and Co. running the show.
“I would say things are very different,” Stefanski said. “Obviously, we are all in a different place. Having a year under the belt for our coaches with our players, we hope provides an advantage, but there are a bunch of teams – including the one we are playing this week – where they have continuity, as well.”