A starting job with the Detroit Lions is up for grabs and there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite. No, I’m not talking about at safety, I’m talking about the battle between Ryan Donahue and Ben Graham at punter.
This much is clear, only one man will make the team. The other will likely have to wait until some other team’s punter suffer’s an injury or gives up a big punt return after an ill-advised kick.
Here’s another question: does it really matter?
Astute football fans recognize the benefits of a great punter. Some of the game’s best, Shane Lechler for example, can drastically change his team’s field position fortune with a powerful sweep of his leg. Unfortunately for the Lions, neither of their options is on par with Shane Lechler.
Ryan Donahue beat out Nick Harris a year ago to win the Lions punting duties but suffered an injury that cut his season short after eight games. He punted 49 times for an average of 42.7 yards per punt, including 13 that landed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and four that went for touchbacks.
Ben Graham took over the Lions punting duties last season after a disastrous one game experiment with Robert Malone. Graham averaged 44.1 yards on his 28 punts in seven games with 10 landing inside the 20-yard line and three going for touchbacks.
Graham is regarded as the better bet to pin an opponent deep based on his rugby style punting but he’s had a few punts get turned into big returns by the opposition this preseason. Donahue is generally the better “hangtime” punter but he had his fair share of moments of inconsistency. Each man’s performance for the Lions last year leaves little to distinguish one from the other. That being the case, does it matter who wins the job?