Position Preview: Special Teams

Posted Jul 26, 2013

The Lions' special teams has undergone the most change of any position group, and competition battles across the board should be good ones to watch

There's no unit on the roster that's gone through more changes this offseason than the special teams. The Lions have a new special teams coordinator and will have a new kicker, punter and returner this fall.

We finish off our preview of the Lions' 90-man roster with a look at the specialists.


David Akers K 5-10 200 38 16 Louisville
Havard Rugland K 6-2 240 28 R Stavanger (Norway)
Don Muhlbach LS 6-4 265 31 10 Texas A&M
Blake Clingan P 6-3 233 24 1 Central Florida
Sam Martin P 6-1 205 23 R Appalachian State


David Akers 42 29 69.0 63 44 44 87 66.0 40
Havard Rugland – Did not play in game –


Sam Martin (college) 60 2,755 45.9 45 25 68
Blake Clingan – Did not play in game –


20.9: Lions' average starting position in 2012 following a kickoff, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. Opponents' average starting spot was the 24-yard line when playing Detroit.
5: Punt returns of 20-plus yards last season recorded by new Lions receiver/returner Micheal Spurlock while with San Diego and Jacksonville. Josh Cribbs (Cleveland), Dwayne Harris (Dallas), Trindon Holliday (Houston/Denver) and Leodis McKelvin (Buffalo) led the league with seven.
4: Return touchdowns (two kickoff and two punt) allowed by Lions special teams last year, costing them games against the Vikings and Titans.


The good: Akers, Rugland, Martin and Clingan offer a significant upgrade in terms of the power in their legs from what the Lions have had in seasons past. Akers was among the league leaders last year in touchbacks and also kicked a 63-yard field goal. Martin averaged nearly 46 yards per kick at Appalachian State last year.
The bad: The Lions have added power, but Akers was just 9-of-19 on field goals of 40-plus yards last season. Lions fans are used to Jason Hanson, who was as steady as they come from that distance. Also, the Lions finished 31st in kick returns and 22nd in punt returns. They recorded a 20-plus-yard kickoff return only 55.9 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
The fix: Overhaul. The Lions needed to get better in the punting game and needed to add some explosiveness to their return game. In Martin, the Lions have the ability to flip the field. To compliment him, they've added a couple good cover specialists to the roster in Montell Owens and Cory Greenwood. The Lions have a number of good options in the return game and someone will emerge in training camp to win that job. More than anything the Lions needed a change in personnel on special teams. They spent considerable resources on retooling the unit this offseason and accomplishing that.


"There's nothing like a full stadium and having 10 guys bearing down on you to really tell who can catch and who can make good decisions. Until the lights are on and you're doing a real game situation, that's where the real evaluation will come."

-- Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on finding a new kickoff and punt returner to replace Stefan Logan.


There will be competition for both the kicker and punter spots, but Akers and Martin are the early favorites.

Rugland has been a great story coming over from Norway, and he has a big leg, but Akers also has a big leg and is an experienced veteran.

The real competition in camp will be for the return jobs. Rookie running back Steven Miller showed some explosiveness this spring and could have a leg up on the rest. He hasn't returned kicks a lot in his football career, so he'll have to show he can do it with 11 guys barreling down on him.

Spurlock is a proven returner in this league and will also get his shot to win the job. So too will Patrick Edwards, Mike Thomas, Theo Riddick, Terrence Austin, Joique Bell and Cody Wilson.

Don't be surprised to see Reggie Bush back returning punts in certain situations this year. He's been a proven playmaker in the return game and the Lions could utilize his skills if they need a spark or a big return.

It should be a fun competition to watch all camp.