Grading the Detroit Lions: Special Teams


This post is part of a series of posts in which I review the Lions position groups based on their play in the 2010 season. I assign a letter grade and give you a chance to have your say with a poll at the end.

Stan Kwan was fired as the Lions special teams coach a year ago after he had become a fan favorite scapegoat. How much of the problems could be directly attributed to Stan Kwan versus the talent he had at his disposal can be debated. What cannot be debated is the the Lions were much better on special teams this year, whether it is simply due to the coaching of Danny Crossman or the result of more talent on the roster.

The Lions were the NFL’s seventh best kickoff coverage team, up from 20th best a year ago and 18th in 2008.

Jason Hanson was having a fine year before it ended when he was roughed following a kick against the New York Jets. He had missed just two field goal attempts on the year, with one of those being an end of half attempt at Green Bay that never had a realistic shot of going in. Other than that kick, Hanson was three-for-three beyond 50 yards. His leg has a lot left in it, provided he can stay healthy. Dave Rayner‘s ability to step in and boot some big kicks was key in the Lions ability to end the season on a high note. He was perfect on two field goal attempts in very windy conditions in Miami and didn’t let the pressure get to him in kicking game-tying and game-winning field goals to break the Lions record road losing streak in Tampa. Lions fans have been spoiled by Jason Hanson and Eddie Murray but Dave Rayner didn’t disappoint.

Nick Harris did a generally good job of giving his coverage team a chance to down the ball deep in the opponent’s territory when field position allowed. John Wendling was terrific as a gunner and may eventually receive Pro Bowl consideration as a special teams player. The Lions pinned their opponents inside the 20 24 times as opposed to just eight touchbacks in the punting game. Harris has a good leg – his 44.6 yards per punt gave the Lions the league’s seventh best punting average – but the Lions gave up the sixth most return yards per punt.

The addition of Stefan Logan was the biggest difference from a year ago. Logan brought an explosive element to the return game and helped put the Lions in good field position time and time again. He finished the year with the fifth best punt return average and the best among players that didn’t take at least one back for a touchdown. He also put up the fifth best kick return average and his 105 yard return against the Rams stood as the longest in the NFL this season. The Lions have been looking for the right return man since Eddie Drummond; they have him now.

Overall Special Teams Grade: B

Like what you see? Give SideLion Report a “like” on facebook, become a follower on twitter, or grab our RSS feed