This season, I’ll be covering the Detroit Lions special teams play throughout the season on Detroit Sports Nation. Here’s my first installment of training camp reports:
New Lions special teams coordinator Joe Marciano inherits a special teams core of a veteran placekicker, a solid utility man punter in Sam Martin–who not only punts, but holds on place kicks, and is a kickoff specialist. The long-snapper spot has been filled for a long time with Don Muhlbach starting his twelfth season for Detroit.
The question marks will be at positions such as gunners, and punt and kickoff returns.
WR Jeremy Ross wasn’t as effective as a returner last year as he was the year before. So at camp, the job is up for grabs.
Per John Katzenstein of the Detroit News, Ross was sharing kick return duties with CB Josh Wilson, rookie RB Ameer Abdullah, and WR T.J. Jones on day 3 of training camp.
With starting RB Joique Bell on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Abdullah will be getting a lot of reps with Theo Riddick on the offense, and may not be an immediate answer at kick returner.
It is much too early in camp to tell who has an edge, but the kickoff (as well as punt) return job should be one that is highly contested.
As far as kickoffs are concerned, there is no reason to expect P Sam Martin to be passed over in favor of K Matt Prater, per Detroitlions.com contributor Mike O’Hara.
Prater did perform kickoff duties for the Denver Broncos before he was cut by the team last season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
He was 21-for-26 on field goal attempts (80.8%) for the Lions, which is near his career average. Detroit signed undrafted rookie free agent Kyle Brindza out of Notre Dame for camp competition. He is not expected to make the opening day roster.