Today we take a look at how the Detroit Lions specialists performed during the 2012 season with a little help from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus.
The radar chart below shows the Pro Football Focus grades for each Lions specialist and compares them to the best, worst and league average ratings. PFF grades each player on each play to produce a massively useful tool for evaluating the totality of a player’s season compared to others at his position.
2012 Season Review
Jason Hanson – At this point it is fair to wonder if Jason Hanson is subject to aging. A missed potential game-winning field goal on Thanksgiving Day is a bad memory stuck in Lions fans’ minds but that was just one kick in a season that saw Hanson make 88.9% of his field goals. That’s better than his career average of 82.4%. He still has plenty of leg as shown by his two makes in three attempts from at least 50 yards. Hanson finished the year with a +22.1 overall rating, good for 13th best among all kickers.
Nick Harris – While the Lions have been able to plug Jason Hanson in at kicker for over two decades, they’ve had less success at punter. The trio of Ryan Donahue/Ben Graham and Nick Harris has been underwhelming over the last two seasons and Harris takes the heat for the 2012 as the man who made most of the team’s punts. His +3.5 overall rating from PFF ranks 30th. The Lions punt coverage units took some heat early on for allowing a couple returns for touchdowns but while that eventually got fixed, Harris performed poorly all season.
Stefan Logan – Danny Crossman was special teams villain number one early in the season but by the time the season concluded, Crossman’s seat had cooled while the vitriol was directed at Stefan Logan. The uproar wasn’t without merit and the final Pro Football Focus kick return ratings reflect that fact. Logan’s paltry +0.6 overall rating (including a -0.1 for kick returns) ranked him 53rd overall. It’s a nearly unfathomable level of futility for someone who had so many chances. Buffalo’s Marcus Easley finished with a higher overall rating one spot ahead of Logan despite returning a grand total of two kicks and zero punts. It’s not that Easley did more with less so much as Logan did less with more.
Kicker – The decision here is solely in Jason Hanson’s hands. He has shown no evidence of an eroding skill set so if the fire still burns, the Lions should be glad to have him back. The Lions best option is for Hanson to agree to return.
Punter – It isn’t likely to be a popular thought but the Lions should consider using a late draft pick on a punter. Otherwise they are doomed to repeat the cycle that they currently find themselves in – the one that has left them with options like Ryan Donahue and a cast of retreads. An intriguing option is Brad Wing out of LSU. He has a very strong leg and is a native Australian who came to the U.S. for the opportunity to punt professionally. He has the ability and was draft eligible so he declared despite having college eligibility remaining. There are red flags, reports of failed drug tests primarily, but Wing would be an instant upgrade.
Kick Returner – Stefan Logan’s contract expired following the season and there is no reason for the Lions to bring him back. He isn’t a productive return man, has no role on offense and isn’t a young player. It would seem that a full offseason would allow the Lions to try out some internal options in a way they were unable, or unwilling, to during the season when it was painfully obvious that Logan was part of the problem rather than solution on special teams. With a tight cap situation it may not make sense to carry a player whose sole purpose is returning kicks. Whether it is a player currently on the roster or a player to be drafted in April, the next kick returner should have a place on the offensive or defensive depth chart.
That concludes this series, be sure to get caught up on any position groups you may have missed along the way. Previously: Wide Receivers, Offensive Tackles, Guards, Center, Tight Ends, Quarterback, Running Backs, Outside Linebackers, Inside Linebacker, Safeties, Cornerbacks, Defensive Ends, Defensive Tackles