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Fipp: Lions have talent on roster, especially on special teams

The Detroit Lions' special teams were one of the bright spots in a five-win season this past year.

Punter Jack Fox was a Pro Bowler, Jamal Agnew ranked top five in punt and kickoff returns, and Detroit's special teams overall were ranked third in Rick Gosselin's annual rankings of the league's 32 special teams units.

The Detroit Lions have a new special teams coordinator in Dave Fipp, who held the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles for the past eight seasons. Over that span, the Eagles combined for nine return touchdowns, which tied for the second most in the NFL in that span.

"There's a lot of talent on this roster, especially on special teams," Fipp said last week. "Those guys played at a high level a year ago, and I'm excited to work with all these guys."

How many of Detroit's core special teamers Fipp will get an opportunity to work with in 2021 is still somewhat of a question mark, however.

Of Detroit's 22 scheduled free agents this offseason, a number of them were key contributors on special teams, including kicker Matt Prater, long snapper Don Muhlbach, Agnew, and key cover specialists Miles Killebrew, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Tony McRae.

Fox is an exclusive rights free agent, which means the Lions control his rights so he should be back as a Lion in 2021.

But for the rest of the free agents who played a key part on special teams, new general manager Brad Holmes has some decisions to make with a number of those players.

Fipp said he reached out to both Muhlbach and Prater on his first day on the job, and has a high opinion of both players.

"I think they're really special people," Fipp said of the two most veteran Lions special teamers. "Obviously, I know their contract situations ... and that's really not my position (to talk about), so I'm not going to give you any answers today. But I do think really highly of those guys and we'll see what happens."

Prater indicated late in the year that he'd like to re-sign with Detroit if given the opportunity. It seems unlikely Muhlbach plays an 18th NFL season anywhere but Detroit, if he decides to come back and play another year.

Fipp said the good thing from his perspective is that head coach Dan Campbell has a strong commitment to special teams.

"I think the most important thing for me, honestly, and the most important thing with Dan, to be honest with you, I know my job really correlates to special teams, but the most important thing for me is that we're a good football team," he said.

"We're trying to win football games and in order to do that in this league you have to do it as a team and you have to be good in all three phases. The idea that you can just be good in one area and win a lot of football games, and be a good football team, I don't think is true.

"So for me, for us, I know for Dan, and certainly myself, most important thing is that we're well balanced in all areas, and to do that everyone has to make sacrifices and I really believe Dan feels the same way about that."

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