MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 25: Ryan Donahue #6 of the Detroit Lions holds the ball as Jason Hanson #4 of the Detroit Lions kicks a 32 yard field goal against the Minnesota Vikings overtime for the win on September 25, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Lions defeated the Vikings 26-23. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Jason Hanson silenced all critics that said he was too old or injuries were becoming a problem by winning the competition for the starting kicker job for the Detroit Lions last training camp. He edged Dave Rayner and went on to make 24-of-29 field goals and all 54 extra points he attempted in 2011. It was another solid year for Hanson, who should be back next season as the starting kicker.
At punter, Ryan Donahue stunned Lions fans by winning the punting job over Nick Harris, who just re-signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, during last year's preseason. Donahue came in as an undrafted free agent from Iowa and didn't need much time to win the starting job. Unfortunately, he got hurt during the middle of last season trying to fill in for Hanson at kicker during a practice, and that injury ended his season. He was ultimately replaced by Ben Graham, who did a nice job of filling in for him and is now a free agent.
The other free agent for the Lions' special teams is long snapper Don Muhlbach. I'm a little surprised he hasn't already been re-signed, as the expectation is for him to be back next season. Perhaps the Lions want to make sure they get other players re-signed first and then they will take care of Muhlbach later.
Need going forward?
Like they always do, the Lions will likely bring in a kicker so Hanson doesn't have to take all of the reps during training camp. I would think they will also bring in a punter to compete with Donahue, although that remains to be seen. As for long snapper, there shouldn't be any need at this position. If something were to happen where Muhlbach didn't re-sign, then the Lions would have to look for a new long snapper for the first time in a long time, but I expect him to be back.