BEREA — If the Browns need a field goal to beat the Chiefs on Sunday in the opener at rowdy Arrowhead Stadium, the responsibility will fall on the shoulders and right leg of Chase McLaughlin.
The Browns signed rookie Chris Naggar to the practice squad Thursday, but coach Kevin Stefanski made it clear Monday that McLaughlin will be the kicker to start the season.
“Yeah, we go into Game 1 with Chase for sure,” he said after practice. “I mean, it’s a competition at every position throughout the season, but the plan was always to have two kickers.”
McLaughlin, 25, kicked for the Colts, Chargers and 49ers in 2019 and the Jaguars and Jets last year. He’s 22-for-28 on field goals in his career and 31-for-32 on extra points.
The Browns claimed him off waivers from the Jets on May 10, and he went from camp leg to contender with a strong performance in practice and some early misses by Cody Parkey.
Parkey, who had the job last year, injured a quadriceps before the preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 22, was placed on injured reserve and then waived with an injury settlement.
McLaughlin was 5-for-5 in the first two preseason games, including a 49-yard field goal into the Dawg Pound. In the finale in Atlanta on Aug. 29, he made 32- and 28-yard field goals, missed a 57-yarder off the crossbar then badly missed an extra point wide right.
Naggar went to SMU and spent camp with the Jets. He’s got a strong right leg.
The Browns continue to get closer to full strength.
Center JC Tretter, nickelback Troy Hill and receiver Rashard Higgins returned to practice after missing more than a week. The injuries to Tretter and Hill were never disclosed. Higgins had a leg injury before the preseason finale Aug. 29 then was excused last week for the birth of his first son.
Guard Michael Dunn (back) was the only player who didn’t practice. He worked on the side.
“That has been the plan all along is to make sure you are sharp and you are fresh,” Stefanski said. “Hopefully guys continue to progress.”
READY TO ROLL
Donovan Peoples-Jones said fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s talent and eagerness to return have been obvious as he comes back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered Oct. 25.
“He made a real good catch out there today,” he said. “He looked like Odell.
“He’s worked hard, he’s a big part of this team.”
Peoples-Jones will open the season as the No. 3 wideout and is looking forward to sharing a field with Beckham.
“I’m very excited. To have our whole strength is always great,” Peoples-Jones said.
THE QUIET ONE
Peoples-Jones made a lot of noise in camp … with his play. The camp MVP doesn’t talk much, especially to reporters.
“I would say he is not the most boisterous guy — we have some other guys who have that handled — but he comes out here and he works,” Stefanski said. “He knows what to do out here all of the time and does his job. He really lets his performance, his play and how he practices do the talking.”
Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo was signed to the practice squad, which is at its 16-man capacity.
Odenigbo (6-foot-3, 258 pounds) was a seventh-round pick of the Vikings in 2017 out of Northwestern. He has 15 starts in 32 games — all but one with the Vikings — totaling 59 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
He was inactive for three games with the Browns in 2018 and has also made stops with the Cardinals and Giants. He’s from Centerville.