The Detroit Lions have a real battle at an important position that has been filled for over a decade. Is a change on the way?
Despite having been with the Detroit Lions for 16 years and counting, long snapper Don Muhlbach is in a fierce fight for his job this offseason. While everyone always dismisses the notion of replacing him, Muhlbach is getting up there and we’ve seen his consistency start to slip just a bit over the past couple of years.
Muhlbach has been the picture of dependable throughout his long career with the Lions, but last season his consistency wasn’t quite the same. There were quite a few times when it seemed that his snaps were either too high or too low and made a field goal or punt harder than it needed to be.
Detroit decided to bring in one of college football’s most talented long snappers in Steven Wirtel, from Iowa State, to get a real competition going at the position. Wirtel was easily a top three long snapper in college last year with a legitimate argument for the top spot. Wirtel was so good in college that he was given a look by all 32 teams before the draft, and was told by some that he could go as early as the fifth round of the draft.
While that obviously didn’t happen, it speaks to the talent that the young player possesses. ESPN’s Mel Kiper also had Wirtel graded as a draftable player in the last two rounds and atop his board at the long snapper position. The Iowa State product blew up the 2020 NFL Combine as well, performing well in drills and extremely well in testing.
Wirtel’s snaps are generally quite accurate and get back to their target with an acceptable NFL speed. His is largely accurate but does need to be as consistent as possible to dethrone his fellow snapper, Muhlbach.
Incumbent snapper Muhlbach had a head start in camp, but Wirtel’s making it a competition.
Despite the massive lead in training camp that Muhlbach was given due to his 16-year career in Detroit and familiarity with the team, Wirtel has performed well enough to give coaches pause before making a final decision. If Wirtel is the more consistent in camp by a hair, the Lions may have no choice but to make the change to their next long-term long snapper this year.
All throughout camp, both long snappers have been neck and neck for the best one in camp. Both have been largely good, but have also been inconsistent on occasions. In as close to a game situation as they can get this year before the season kicks off, the two participated in the Lions full-team scrimmage.
MLive’s Kyle Meinke team reporter was able to view the scrimmage and his report on the battle was that Muhlbach got the start at long snapper, but wasn’t necessarily the best option on the day. The undrafted rookie, Wirtel, reportedly had a better overall and more consistent day.
At a position that demands consistency and reliability, Muhlbach seems to be beginning to fade in those departments, while Wirtel is only getting started. All things considered, the Lions could definitely stick with Muhlbach to kick off the 2020 season.
However, cutting Wirtel would put a young, promising long snapper on the waiver wire. If other teams like what they hear about him, Wirtel may not be available should the Lions decide midseason that Muhlbach isn’t what they were hoping. Given that, don’t be surprised if Detroit decides to keep the undrafted rookie and look to make him their next long tenured long snapper.