FanPost

Not So Special Teams - Vol. 6 - Punt Coverage

Now, for the last unit of the special teams; punting and punt coverage.

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via media.mlive.com

First the punters themselves. 2010 was the last year of the Nick Harris era, with Ryan Donahue winning the job in 2011, then losing half the season to injury with Ben Graham filling in.

In 2010 - Ave Punt = 44.6 yds [T7th], Net Punt = 35.8 yds [25th], 24 of 90 punts inside the 20.

In 2011 - Ave. Punt = 43.6 yds [23rd], Net Punt = 36 yds. [31st], 23 of 77 punts inside the 20.

There was a substantial difference between Donahue and Graham. Donahue was the worst or second worst in average punt and net punt, while Graham was in the middle of the pack. There was a four yard difference in net punt for Graham over Donahue. FYI - our former punter, Nick Harris was the just ahead of Donahue in both categories as the punter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

PFF.com had Harris ranked as the 9th best punter in 2010, with the duo of Graham and Donahue as the NFLs worst in 2011. Nick Harris was second worst to those two.

The punt blocking both years was solid, with no blocks against either year.

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Our punter going for the tackle with the rest of the unit in hot pursuit. Not good. via binaryapi.ap.org

Now, for the coverage unit. Pretty much the same group who covered kick offs, covered punt returns as far as I could tell. To the data;

In 2010 - Ave. return of 11.7 yds, 1 TD, and 17 fair catches.

In 2011 - Ave. return of 13.4 yds, 1 TD, and 13 fair catches.

Overall, FootballOutsiders.com had the Lions ranked 25th in 2010 and 26th in 2011. Looking at the net punt yardage that seems reasonable. And from the eyeball test, I agree that the Lions were in the bottom quartile both years. FYI - Crossman's Panthers were ranked 24th in net punt in 2009, and gave up the fifth most return yards. They were just 0.2 yards per punt behind the Stan Kwan coached Detroit Lions punt cover unit.

Once again, the same questions regarding the coverage unit; bad tackling? lack of speed down the field? poor discipline? and for a bonus, what about the punter's impact?

In this case, the 2011 data shows that Ben Graham decisively out punted Ryan Donahue. I realize that Donahue was a rookie, and may have more potential than Graham, but unless he starts to show it, it would not be a hard decision for me to go with Graham over Donahue. From the sounds of talk this preseason the battle is pretty close with Donahue a slight favourite.

Any other thoughts on what ails this unit and how the Lions can improve?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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