Graham has a leg up in kicking competition
CLEVELAND – As Shayne Graham worked on his kicking at a recent Browns practice, Brandon Bogotay spent time pedaling a stationary bike.
With less than two weeks remaining until the regular season begins, guess which of the two kickers likely will be the starter when the Browns host the Miami Dolphins Sept. 8?
Graham, a veteran of 12 NFL seasons, appears to be coach Rob Chudzinski’s choice. Bogotay, a rookie from the University of Georgia, was thought to be the frontrunner because of a stronger kicking leg, but a recent groin pull and Graham’s steady preseason effort have propelled him to the top of the depth chart.
After the preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday, Chudzinski said that Graham is the leader. Given the history of slow recovery of many groin pulls, it could be a case of Graham winning the job by default.
Having had to deal with several roster battles since ending a seven-year association with the Cincinnati Bengals after the 2009 season, Graham is never sure he has a job until he pulls his helmet on before kick off.
“This is my 14th training camp,” said Graham, who made 31 of 38 field-goal attempts for the Houston Texans last season. “It seems like yesterday I was in my first. You take every one of those years and you gain experience. Learning how many balls to kick without kicking too many, but kick enough balls to work on your skills without regressing at all. It’s become a very fine-tuned thing.”
It will be interesting to see how the Browns handle Bogotay. If the groin is fully healed before the game against Miami, it’s possible he could be awarded the job and Graham is waived. Another possibility would be to enter the season with Graham as the kicker and slip Bogotay through waivers with the purpose of putting him on the practice squad.
Bogotay’s value comes with his leg strength. He didn’t get many field-goal attempts (two) at Georgia kicking behind current Minnesota Viking Blair Walsh, but eight of his 29 kick offs went for touchbacks.
Graham lacks the power of Bogotay, but he’s been consistent from inside 40 yards (93 percent) in his career. From beyond 40 yards he’s 63 of 79.
If Graham wins the job, he’ll discover quickly what former Browns kicker Phil Dawson long knew Cleveland is the toughest place to kick in the NFL. Dawson always talked about how the tricky winds that blow through the narrow openings at the corners of First Energy Stadium create a swirling effect that would have driven most kickers out of town early in their careers.
“I’m probably the second-longest guy kicking in it besides him (Dawson),” said Graham, who visited Cleveland once a season during his time in Cincinnati. “It can prove difficult, but both teams have to play in it. You learn the wind patterns. You learn to deal with weather. All you can do is adapt to it, do your best, try to focus on your fundamentals and execute.”
ROSTER CUTS: The Browns waived the following players to reach the current limit of 75: linebacker Kendrick Adams, offensive lineman Dominic Alford, receiver Dominique Croom, defensive lineman Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, fullback Owen Marecic, offensive lineman Ryan Miller and tight end Travis Tannahill. In addition, running back Montario Hardesty was placed on injured-reserve and offensive lineman Chris Faulk was placed on reserve/non-football injury.
The Browns were awarded linebacker Paul Hazel from Jacksonville and punter Colton Schmidt from San Francisco on waivers.