The Detroit Lions allowed Sam Martin to leave, opening a competition for the punter job.
Following another disappointing season from punter Sam Martin, the Detroit Lions made the decision to not retain his services this offseason. Instead, Martin went on to sign with the Denver Broncos and will be taking his services to Mile High Stadium.
They made the decision because Martin had just had his second consecutive sub-par season in Motor City. In 2018, Martin averaged 44.7 yards per punt (23rd best in the league), landed 36 inside the 20, and had a long of just 61 yards (27th overall). Many people believed he could rebound in 2019, but nothing much changed as he averaged just 45.3 yards per punt (18th in the NFL), landed 38 inside the 20, and once again had a long punt of 62 yards.
In fact, Martin’s play has been steadily declining ever since his impressive 2014 season, where he was among the best in the league. 2015-2016 saw respectable and acceptable play from him until an injury-shortened 2017.
There was much discussion about whether or not the Lions would draft a punter in the 2020 NFL draft and the fan-favorite was Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, with South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton a distant second. It turned out that Detroit chose to not address the position in the draft this year.
Instead, they’ve chosen to let a guy already on the roster from 2019 and an undrafted free agent they signed after the draft this year. Those two guys are Jack Fox, who spent time on the practice squad last year, and former Australian Football League and Auburn punter Arryn Siposs.
Two punting candidates for the Detroit Lions in 2020
Jack Fox attended Rice University from 2015-2018, starting as the punter in his sophomore year. His freshman season he handled some kickoff duties successfully but didn’t see the field as a punter.
In 2016, his first year punting, he averaged 40.7 yards per punt over 75 punts, with 27 of those landing inside the 20 yard line. His junior season he improved by about four yards per punt, averaging 44.3 yards per punt over 56 punts (15th nationally), and once again did a good job with kickoffs.
Throughout his senior season in 2018, Fox punted the ball 80 times and averaged 45.5 yards per punt, with 26 going over 50 yards, and 31 of them landing inside the 20-yard line.
The next punter on the team is former Auburn Tiger Arryn Siposs. What you may not know about him is that he also played in the Australian Football League for five years. Interestingly, if he makes the Lions team, he would also be making history.
When he was at Auburn, Siposs first started in 2018, punting the ball 56 times for an average of 44.2 yards per punt, pinning 17 inside the 20, and had a long of 60 yards. His final season in 2019, Siposs averaged 43.8 yards per punt and serving as the back-up holder.
It appears that neither of these two punters has a booming leg, but both appear able to control their kicks well, landing plenty of kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Fox has more overall experience with American football rules and punting, but doesn’t have the ability to do the roll-out punt that Siposs no doubt excels at. However, Fox is a legitimately good kick-off specialist as well and the Lions also need to fill that role.
Ultimately, it seems most likely that Fox’s more extensive familiarity with the Lions team and staff and American football, combined with his slightly stronger leg and ability to perform kick-offs well will end up outshining Siposs’s ability to punt in multiple styles.
At the current moment, Fox seems like the best bet and the best player for the Lions team. However, he will have to prove himself in camp and in the preseason, where Siposs will have his chance to surprise people and steal the spot from Fox.