The Detroit Lions enter training camp with a new kicker in Nate Freese, who will replace David Akers. They also have a promising punter in Sam Martin.
The Detroit Lions played their first season in 21 years without kicker Jason Hanson, and they spent 2013 with David Akers as their kicker.
Akers had a respectable season, but the Lions let him go and drafted Nate Freese in the seventh round of the draft. Freese offers high upside since he did not miss a single field goal in his final season with Boston College, including a field goal from 52 yards out.
The Lions also have young blood at punter in Sam Martin, who excelled as a rookie in Detroit. The second-year punter longest punt went 72 yards, and he averaged 47.2 yards per punt. 30.6 percent of Martin’s punt went inside the 20-yard line too.
If Freese can carry over his high level of play from college to the pros, the Lions may have one of the best special teams units in the NFL after finishing with a disappointing 27th-place ranking.
The return specialist will be Jeremy Ross again, and there is no clear competition for him so far. Ross has blazing speed and greatly improved in the return game after being released by the Green Bay Packers for fumbling on kickoff returns.
However, if Ross gets injured, the Lions may look to Golden Tate, who served as the primary punt returner for the Seahawks in 2013.
The Lions can only get better than last year on special teams, and Freese figures to be an upgrade over the inconsistent Akers. Martin has the potential to emerge as the NFL’s best punter if he can improve upon his rookie season.