Friday, November 1, 2013
Midseason review: Specialists
By Michael Rothstein
This week, during Detroit's bye, we'll take a look at each position group at the half way point of the season.
Prior reviews: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide Receivers; Tight ends; Offensive line; Defensive line; Linebackers; Defensive backs.
What has worked: He had one rough game against Minnesota and one horrifically-timed bad punt against Cincinnati, but other than that, rookie Sam Martin has been exactly what Detroit could have hoped for when the Lions drafted him in the fifth round of April's draft.
Martin is fourth in the NFL -- and third in the NFC -- in net yards per punt (42.51) and fourth in the league in gross yards per punt at 48.49 yards.
He has a touchback rate of 57.6 percent (14th in the NFL) but that is skewed by facing Chicago's Devin Hester and Dallas' Dwayne Harris -- three of the league's top returners. His average kickoff goes 65.36 yards, which places the ball firmly in the end zone. Martin's coverage units have helped both in his punt and kickoff stats.
Kicker David Akers, brought in this offseason after Jason Hanson retired, has made 12 of 15 field goals -- and two of the three misses were blocked based off of bad blocking on the line.
What has not: As mentioned above, Detroit has had two field goals blocked this season, both of which came from bad blocking on the line.
The biggest concern for the Lions, though, would be their return units. Micheal Spurlock is averaging 21.88 yards a kick return -- 52nd in the NFL, one spot behind Jacksonville's Denard Robinson. The decision-making hasn't been the best, either, as the Lions are averaging 81.9 yards of field to go on returns Spurlock has had -- worse than taking a touchback on every kick.
He hasn't been much better on punt returns. Other than a 57-yarder against Chicago, he is averaging 4.18 yards a punt return this season.
Prognosis: Detroit will be fine both for the rest of the season and in the long term with Martin on both punts and kickoffs. It might be the most stable position the Lions have for the foreseeable future.
How the Lions handle their return situation is another matter. Detroit had Jeremy Ross returning kicks and, after the Achilles injury to Ryan Broyles, punts on Sunday against Dallas when Spurlock was inactive. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Spurlock's inactivity was due to the Lions' offensive line situation, but it could be a definite situation to watch as the Lions come back to practice next week.
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in compiling this report.