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2023 position breakdown: Special teams 

The good: Since Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp was hired in 2021, Detroit's special teams have been one of the top units in the NFL year after year.
Not only have they been consistently good, but unpredictable as well. Detroit is 8-of-10 on fake punt attempts since Fipp became coordinator. Four of those conversions have come via rushes and the other four have come via passes from punter Jack Fox, who is 3-of-4, and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who is 1-for-1.

Since joining the Lions in 2020, Fox ranks fifth in the NFL in punting average (48.4) and sixth in net punting average (42.6). He's one of the most consistent punters in the league today.

Wide receiver Kalif Raymond has been Detroit's primary punt returner since joining the team in 2021 with 70 punt returns for 831 yards (11.9 avg.) and one touchdown, with a long return of 48 yards. He ranks third in return yards and second in punt return average (11.9) over that span. Only Baltimore's Devin Duvernay has a higher average (12.9) since 2021.

Detroit ranked 11th in the NFL this season with a 90.5 field goal percentage (19-for-21). Riley Patterson was 15-for-17 kicking field goals in the regular season and 35-for-37 on extra points before losing a kicking competition to Michael Badgley that was going on in practice for a few weeks leading up to the last month of the season. Badgley was 4-for-4 on field goals and 13-of-15 on extra points the final four games of the season. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals in the playoffs and made all 11 of his extra point tries.

View photos of the Detroit Lions special teams from the 2023 NFL season.

The bad: Head coach Dan Campbell is aggressive by nature and when it comes to going for it on fourth down or attempting a 50-plus-yard field goal he opts to go for it more than kick it. Does it have anything to do with the confidence from 50-plus he's had in his kickers? Detroit attempted only two field goals of more than 50 yards in the regular season, finishing 1-for-2. Badgley made a critical 54 yarder in the playoffs to help beat the Rams in the Wild Card Round.

Detroit ranked 19th in kickoff returns with an average of 22.2 yards per return. Only 57.9 percent of their returns covered at least 20 yards, which ranked 22nd.

Key stat: Opponents started their average drive at their own 23.7 yard line this season, the worst starting field position in the NFL.

MVP: Punter Jack Fox

Fox has been so good over his first four seasons in Detroit but one area he identified last offseason he needed to be better at was being able to pin teams deep and limit touchbacks. He put in a lot of reps into that part of his game and it paid off this year.

Fox pinned 26 of his 57 punts (45.6 percent) inside of the 20-yard line this season, the fifth highest rate in the NFL. He ranked fourth in punts pinned inside the 10 with 10 of his 57 punts (17.5) pinned inside of the 10-yard line this season. He had only five touchbacks on punts all year.

Most improved: Jalen-Reeves Maybin

Reeves-Maybin has been one of the better special teams players in the NFL but he took his game to another level this season, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. This season he led the NFL with 14 special teams tackles. Since entering the NFL in 2017, Reeves-Maybin ranks 10th in combined special teams tackles (60).

In Week 1, Reeves-Maybin ran for a 3-yard gain to convert a 4th & 2 on a fake punt. In Week 17, he executed another successful fake punt conversion on 4th & 2 off a pass to Khalil Dorsey for 31 yards.

Free agents: K Michael Badgley (unrestricted), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (unrestricted), LS Jake McQuaide (unrestricted), WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (unrestricted), LS Scott Daly (restricted), CB Khalil Dorsey (restricted), LB Anthony Pittman (restricted), CB Chase Lucas (exclusive rights), RB Craig Reynolds (exclusive rights).

The Lions value special teams more than most teams and will always reserve some roster space for players that might not play a lot of offense or defense but are core special teamers. Reeves-Maybin seems to be a priority re-signing for what he means on teams.

Holmes will have to decide what they want to do at kicker. Is Badgley their man moving forward, or will they hit the free-agent market looking for another veteran? Maybe the NFL Draft?

Draft: There's always a lot of turnover at the bottom of the roster and that heavily impacts special teams. For some Day 3 draft picks and undrafted rookies, producing on teams might be their way onto the initial 53-man roster. Two areas where the Lions could look to bolster their teams via the draft are potentially at kicker and kick returner.

The consensus top three kickers available in this year's NFL Draft are Cam Little (Arkansas), Will Reichard (Alabama) and Joshua Karty (Stanford).

Quotable: "Yeah, I think it's an area where we've talked about in here, I think through the years of that I thought he could improve in," Fipp said of Fox's ability to pin the ball deep and avoid touchbacks. "And I feel like down the stretch, I mean he's been playing his best football and he's been big in the biggest moments. And that's the thing we love about Fox. He's a clutch player, man. He thrives in these conditions."

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