CLEVELAND – The Browns drafted LSU Kicker Cade York in the 2022 NFL Draft in the fourth round. It looked like the Browns had their long-term answer at Kicker and all was well on special teams.
The game film didn’t lie. York had a Justin Tucker-like presence on the field. Reliable, with record-breaking kick power and enough accuracy to consistently kick field goals when called upon.
Call Kickers less important but I’m game-winning situations, that Kicker quickly becomes the hero or the goat. That’s not the good goat as in greatest of all time. That’s the guy who doesn’t get the job done. When we think of Kickers who get the job done, Tucker and Bengals Evan McPherson are the first two kickers who come to mind. Legends like Adam Vinatieri, Sebastian Janikowski, and former Browns Kicker Phil Dawson have their places in history. Let’s face it, York is not looking like a Dawson like Kicker at the moment.
Will that soon change? Is it just a matter of York simply gaining his confidence? Even though York missed his only field goal attempt of 49 yards, he kicked immediately after a severe thunderstorm moved into the area. That wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Perhaps Browns fans can dismiss this as a difficult night and nothing to worry about. However, looking back at last season, 24 of 32 field goals isn’t a shining beacon of hope. Granted, some of those were the results of field goal blocks and poor blocking by the lineman. It’s important to be objective in the criticism of York’s struggles so far.
This isn’t necessarily the end of the road for York. Although the Browns could hypothetically release him this week and search for veteran options, the coaches are confident in him. How can they be confident? York has the range to hit a field goal from any distance. The game film proves it. He doesn’t have a range problem, he has an accuracy problem. Often his missed field goals have more than enough distance. The coaches don’t have to worry about that. They need to work with him on accuracy.
It’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. It’s still pre-season and there’s time to correct this. It’s obvious York needs to make some sort of adjustment. It’s time for the coaches to earn their money by diligently focusing on what York isn’t doing correctly. Although it’s possible he is doing everything correctly, the numbers don’t lie. Something is off and the Browns are against the clock. The coaches must address this or this will become a problem in week one. York could figure it out before that happens and it’s important to give him the “benefit of the doubt”.
Although it may seem insignificant now and just another unfair critique of York, objectively speaking, Kickers are supposed to be the epitome of reliability. That’s a lot to ask for from a second-year Kicker. For the sake of staying on the roster long-term, York needs to make a few field goals in the next two weeks. Although his place on the roster for the beginning of the season isn’t in doubt, his place on the roster for the whole season might be in question. It’s time for York to rebound. The Browns will give him that chance until they can’t do that anymore.
Giving up on York so early is actually a terrible idea. That may seem like a bold take but let’s think about how the Raiders (Oakland at the time) dealt with a similar situation. Janikowski struggled in his rookie season and had a lower field percentage than York in his rookie season. He only made 68.8 % of his field goals! York made exactly 75% of his field goals, almost seven percent higher than Janikowski. What if the Raiders doubted him early? Would be become one of the greatest Kickers in NFL history? York’s field goal percentage was never below 77%. Browns fans shouldn’t give up on York so early. The numbers prove that even a legendary Kicker can have a bad rookie season.