Eyes on the kickoff return tonight

August, 27, 2011
8/27/11
5:10
PM ET
DETROIT -- Here is one area of tonight's game that could be interesting to watch:

With all the talk about the kickoff being moved up 5 yards, and teams booming the ball through the end zone for a touchback, don't be surprised if the Lions try something a bit different. This week in practice, the Lions were working on kickoffs with hang time that land inside the 5.

The thinking is that with a quarterback like Tom Brady, it's worth a chance to try to pin the team deeper inside the 20 and make him worker an even longer field. Will it work? The preseason is the time to find out, and the Lions have a kickoff specialist in Dave Rayner, and another veteran kicker in Jason Hanson, who will attempt to execute in this area tonight.

The topic is brought up because kickoff returner Brandon Tate's place on the Patriots' roster has been in the spotlight here in recent weeks.

The expected reduction in kickoff returns lessens his value, although we'll see if the Lions' plans tonight -- and the execution of such a strategy -- might change that line of thinking.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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