American Football

Training camp preview: Kicker, long snapper battles underway

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Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jack Fox has the Lions’ punter job locked up. After that, special teams starting roles are up for grabs.

Detroit Lions 2023 training camp is just days away and we are wrapping up our roster battle series by taking a look at the team’s special teams kicking roles. If you missed any of the articles in this series, here’s what we have covered:

Let’s wrap this series up.

Setting the table at punter

In 2020, Lions punter Jack Fox made the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro. And while his number improved in 2021, he did not see any postseason honors. He entered 2022 with no competition on the roster, and in October, the Lions signed Fox to a contract extension that made him the highest-paid punter in the league. He enters 2023 training camp, once again, with no competition.

Setting the table at kicker

The Lions’ kicker situation was nowhere near as clean. The Lions 2021 season saw a split of kicking duties primarily between Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson—who replaced Seibert after an in-season injury. The pair entered 2022 training camp in a battle, with Seibert declared the winner and Patterson released. Patterson was claimed by the Jaguars and the Lions signed Dominik Eberle to the practice squad.

Three games into the season Seibert was re-injured, and eventually released with an injury designation. He was replaced by Eberle whom the Lions signed from their practice squad. In his only opportunity, Eberle missed two extra points and the Lions released him soon after. With another vacancy at kicker, the Lions signed Michael Badgley, who would remain their kicker for the rest of the season. While with the Lions, Badgley went 20 of 24 on field goal attempts—he was also 4-for-4 earlier in the season with the Bears—and was re-signed for the 2023 season.

Despite Badgley’s performance, the Lions were not satisfied and brought in offseason competition for the team’s kicking role. First up was Parker Romo, who was given a tryout at rookie minicamp after earning All-XFL team honors and he would sign at its conclusion. After the Jaguars signed Brandon McManus, they were looking to move Patterson and traded him back to Detroit, adding a third kicker to their 2023 battle.

Throughout OTAs and minicamp, Romo and Patterson faced off head-to-head, while a reported injury kept Badgley from partaking in practices. While most anticipated the three kickers to square off in training camp, on Thursday, the Lions released Badgley from the roster after making a trade for wide receiver Denzel Mims—reducing the battle to just Romo and Patterson.

Setting the table at long snapper

Scott Daly—aka the man who replaced legend Don Muhlbach—also entered 2022 camp with no competition for his long snapper role and he completed his second full season in a Lions uniform.

After Daly earned a less-than-impressive 32.1 special teams grade from PFF, the Lions signed former two-time Pro Bowler Jake McQuaide for competition. McQuaide spent eight seasons with the Rams during the time that Lions general manager Brad Holmes was working in their front office.

The battleground

Punter: Fox is locked in

Kicker: Romo vs. Patterson

Romo is coming off an XFL season that saw him competitively kicking from February through April and entered the spring with a rhythm. He definitely has the bigger leg of the pair but showed some inconsistencies in the spring that left you wanting more.

Patterson has two years of NFL experience and has made some clutch kicks during that span, including converting on a time-expiring field goal to complete the Jaguars’ improbable comeback win over the Chargers in the 2022-23 playoffs. He has never had a strong leg but his accuracy has always been impressive. Patterson has converted 43 of his 49 field goals over his career (two seasons) for an impressive 87.8% success rate.

Long snapper: Daly vs. McQuaide

The Lions thought enough of Daly to keep him on their roster for two seasons and bring him back for a third on an ERFA contract. But the fact that they are bringing in competition is an indicator that they may not be happy with some of the hiccups he had in 2022. He’ll have a chance to win the job in camp.

McQuaide is a 10-year veteran with some postseason honors to his name, and he could be the early favorite for the job despite being the challenger. At 35 years old, McQuaide is “old” for a football player, but long snappers have a longer career span than other positions and he could still have a few more years in the league before he decides to retire.

Discussion/Projection

Erik: The kicker competition took a sharp turn on Thursday after the Lions released Badgley and things look wide open right now. This Lions regime has preferred power over accuracy in the past, which probably gives the edge to Romo, but I’m not so sure they’ll want to let Patterson slip through their fingers again. As far as the long snapper battle, signs sure seem to point to the team switching out starters and rolling with McQuaide.

So Jeremy, do you have a lean in either battle or do you think it’s still too early to project a winner at either spot?

Jeremy: I’m leaning Parker Romo in the kicking battle because that extra power can truly be a bonus weapon for the Lions offense. If this team needs a late drive to score before the half or win at the end of the game, needing 15-20 fewer yards of field position on offense can be the difference between a win or loss.

As for long-snapper, if you’re in the market for long snapping competition, that likely means you aren’t too happy with what you’ve got. I think McQuaide has to be the early favorite.

Erik: Alright, let’s put a bow on this series. Training camp is upon us, enjoy!

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