The Detroit Lions Special Teams Imploded Against The New York Jets On Monday Night.
The Detroit Lions are usually very good on special teams. It is usually a phase of the game that fans can count on to at least be reliable.
Matt Prater is among the best kickers in the entire NFL.
Former fifth-round pick Jamal Agnew is considered to be one of the most electric return men in the league.
The Lions special teams unit was about average in kick coverage last year, ranking 12th in kick off coverage and 17th in punt coverage.
Average would have been a blessing for the Lions special teams in Monday night’s blowout loss to the New York Jets.
Prater, one of the most reliable kickers in the league, made only one of his three attempts on Monday. That made field goal came from 21 yards out, essentially a chip shot for an NFL kicker. His misses came from 44 and 55 yards. In addition to the misses from Prater, one of the field goals started with a high and wide snap from long-time Lion Don Muhlbach that holder Sam Martin had to contort to get to the ground. Nothing about this unit looked smooth.
On punts last year, the Lions special teams unit gave up an average of 17.6 yards per return. On Monday night against the Jets, the Lions gave up returns of 43 and 16, as well as a 78-yard return for a touchdown by former Lions special teams standout Andre Roberts. That’s about as bad a game as you can have from the punt coverage unit.
Agnew is electric with the ball in his hands, but he has shown issues with tracking punts in the air and field them. Those issues do not appear to be resolved. While it was a very limited sample size for Agnew, it’ never reassuring to see the same issues continue to pop up across multiple years.
The Lions special teams need to sharpen up, and they need to do so in a hurry. Even if the Lions are able to fix the numerous issues that they had on both offense and defense, they are going to have a hard time winning games if their special teams continue to struggle to this degree. You can’t give up touchdowns on special teams and expect your offense to just make up the difference. You can’t give the opponent stellar starting field position every drive and expect the defense to bail you out. Even the best offenses can’t score touchdowns every drive. Your kicker needs to convert his field goal attempts and your long snapper needs to give him a shot.
It’s going to be a long year for Lions fans if Matt Patricia doesn’t get these issues ironed out in a hurry.