On the roster: P Jack Fox, K Riley Patterson, K Austin Seibert, LS Scott Daly
Key losses: Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Best competition: Who wins the kicking job?
The Lions claimed Seibert off waivers in September last year, and he was their kicker to start the season, though he missed Weeks 3 & 4 after testing positive for COVID-19. He returned and played through Week 8 before a hip injury ended his season prematurely. He was 10-of-12 kicking field goals and a perfect 5-for-5 on extra point attempts at the time of the injury.
With Seibert out of commission, the Lions acquired Patterson from the New England Patriots practice squad, and he held it down nicely the rest of the way, making 15 of his 16 field goal attempts and all 16 of his extra point tries. He was the Week 15 Special Teams Player of the Week after making three field goals and three extra points in Detroit's dominating win over Arizona.
The Lions are in a pretty good spot here with two veteran kickers coming off good seasons. Training camp and the preseason will decide who gets the job. It's a pretty easy competition to evaluate. Whoever makes more kicks in the preseason and camp practices should win.
View photos of the Detroit Lions specialists heading into training camp.
Twentyman's take: The Lions finished seventh overall in Rick Gosselin's annual NFL special teams rankings. They really don't have a weakness in any phase on special teams.
Leading the way for the Lions is third-year punter Fox, who has quickly become one of the best in the business. Fox is off to a historic start to his career. He owns the NFL's highest gross and net punting averages through a punter's first 25, 50, 75 and 100 punts. Since making his NFL debut in 2020, Fox has punted 124 times with a 49.2 yard average with a 43.5 yard net average and a long punt of 70 yards. He is a weapon for the Lions and could be up for a long-term contract extension here pretty soon.
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has done a really nice job with this unit. From kicking to punting to the coverage units and the return game, the Lions are above average in every category. A lot of that also stems from the importance head coach Dan Campbell places on special teams play, which not all coaches do. The Lions spend considerable time at practice working on special teams.
The team re-signed wide receiver Kalif Raymond this offseason. Raymond caught 46 passes last season, and he also finished fourth in the NFL with a punt-return average of 11.2 yards per return. He's solid and reliable as a returner.
The Lions ranked seventh in the NFL in kickoff return average (24.4), with Godwin Igwebuike leading the way with a 24.9 yard average of 28 returns. Igwebuike is back with the team in 2022, and his special teams prowess might give him the edge in the final couple spots at running back.
Overall, it's a really good special teams unit from top to bottom.
By the numbers:
2 for 3: Fox owns two of the top three best net punting average seasons in team history.
10: Patterson broke the Lions franchise record for the most field goals made to start a season with 10 last year.
29.1: Detroit's average starting field position last season, which ranked 14th in the NFL.
38: Passing yards on 2-of-3 attempts for Fox last season, which was the most for a punter in a single season since Johnny Hekker (42) in 2012. Fox led all punters in completions (2), passing yards (38) and passing first downs (2) last season.
49.1: Fox's gross punting average in 2021 set a new Lions franchise record for a season.
Quotable: "This is one of my favorite times of the year," Fipp said of coordinating the special teams in the offseason training program. "Mostly for me it's because you get a chance to work on individual work within individuals' own game and it's not as much looking at big picture and getting ready for the next opponent. It's an opportunity to develop players. In the season, you don't have as much opportunity to do that, it's more big-picture stuff.
"I think the biggest thing is, it really helps, we've done a great job here just in the draft and free agency process of bringing in smart players, which makes my job a lot easier. If they can kind of understand big picture that helps a lot."