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2023 training camp preview: Special teams

On the roster: P Jack Fox, K Michael Badgley, K Riley Patterson, K Parker Romo, LS Scott Daly, LS Jake McQuaide

Best competition: Kicker job.

I can't remember the last time the Lions brought three kickers into the start of training camp, which tells me they feel the competition is wide open.

Badgley was solid last season making 24 of his 28 field goal attempts and all 33 of his extra points after joining the team in October. He's probably the favorite to win the job coming into camp, but that will certainly settle itself over the coming weeks.

Patterson was in camp with the Lions last year but lost the competition with Austin Seibert to start the year. He ended up signing with Jacksonville where he made 30 of his 35 attempts and 36 of 37 extra points helping to lead the Jaguars to the playoffs. He had a walk off 36-yard field goal to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Badgley and Patterson are proven accurate kickers, but neither has a strong leg for NFL standards. That's where Romo can try to separate himself. He's got the strongest leg of the three and was 17-for-19 with a long of 57 yards in 10 games in the XFL this past spring.

The kicker competition is one of the easier jobs to evaluate in camp and the preseason, and it will be fun to chart all the kicks and see who emerges in the end to earn the job.

Two other special teams competitions to keep an eye on are Daly and McQuaide at long snapper and who emerges as the team's primary kick return man.

View photos of the Detroit Lions quarterbacks heading into training camp.

Twentyman's take: Former Dallas Morning News NFL writer Rick Gosselin releases a comprehensive special teams report every year where the league's 32 teams are ranked in 22 kicking-game categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. It's become the go-to special teams rankings for the league, and last year the Lions finished sixth in overall special teams performance.

Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp is one of the best in the business and benefits from the fact that head coach Dan Campbell values teams play and dedicates significant practice time to keep them sharp. The Lions are six-of-seven (85.7 percent) on fake punt attempts over the last two seasons.

Since joining the Lions in 2021, Kalif Raymond ranks among the NFL's most productive punt returners over that span. His 12.2-yard average is second highest over that stretch and his 500 return yards ranks third. He had a huge punt-return touchdown last season in the Week 15 win over the Jets.

Fox entered the NFL in 2020 with the Lions and ranks first in gross punting average (49.0) and sixth in net punting average (42.9) over the last three seasons. The former high school quarterback has a sneaky strong arm as well. He's completed 3-of-4 passes (the one incompletion was a drop) for 44 yards and three first downs on fake punt attempts.

It will be interesting to see who emerges as Detroit's primary kickoff return man. It wouldn't be surprising to see Raymond get a shot there, but Jahmyr Gibbs, Jermar Jefferson and Craig Reynolds could get looks too.

By the numbers:

1: Opponents had just one punt return over 20-plus yards against Detroit last season.

5: Raymond is one of only five players across the league to return a punt for a touchdown over the last two seasons combined.

25.0: Average opponent starting field position after kickoffs. That ranked in the top 10 in the league last year.

27.0: The Lions' offense started their average drive at the 27.0-yard line after kickoffs last year, the second best rate in the NFL.

80.0: Detroit's field goal percentage last season, which ranked 26th in the NFL.

83.3: Opponent field goal percentage against the Lions last season (25-for-30). Teams were only 1-for-5 beyond 50 yards.

85.3: Detroit led the NFL by taking 85.3 percent of their kickoff returns 20-or-more yards last season.

View photos of the Detroit Lions' alternate helmet.

Quotable: "It's kind of been this way the last couple of years where we really didn't know who the (kickoff) returner was going into the first year and ended up getting Godwin (Igwebuike) and the next year ended up being JJ (Justin Jackson). We'll see," Fipp said this offseason.

"We've got some good body types. Jermar Jefferson could go back there. Craig Reynolds could go back there. Anybody who is a running back, as long as they can catch that ball, would have a good skillset, obviously, to play back there. That's kind of what we've done in the past, so we'll see where it goes."

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