The Detroit Lions' special teams units were a constant source of displeasure for fans last season. Not only did the Lions have some big problems covering kicks and punts, but they didn't do much of anything on returns. The man overseeing these units, Danny Crossman, left for the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, and John Bonamego replaced him as the Lions' special teams coordinator.
Bonamego is hoping to improve all aspects of the Lions' special teams in 2013, but what if he could only have one outstanding unit? This is the question Tim Twentyman recently posed to Bonamego, who said that he'd rather have a solid coverage unit than an explosive returner. From the Lions' official site:
"I'm going to always err towards making sure that we can protect the punter, make sure that we can cover those punts once the ball is punted, make sure we can cover kicks and make sure we can protect field goals," Bonamego said.
"Don't get me wrong, we expect, and I want, a great return game. But you take a touchback and start on the 20-yard line. As long as you're not turning the ball over, or making dumb mistakes in your return game, it's not going to get you beat."
Bonamego's basic point is "it's a lot easier to lose games than it is win games." In other words, if you have a bad coverage unit, giving up big returns or allowing touchdowns is more likely to contribute to a loss than if you have a bad return unit. There were times last season where Stefan Logan's miscues certainly played a part in the Lions' struggles, but as Bonamego said, if you're not turning the ball over, a bad return unit may simply mean you're at a disadvantage in field position. A bad coverage unit could directly cost you points.
Obviously the hope for the Lions is that their special teams will be good in all aspects. However, if you could only pick one, would you rather have them excel at covering kicks and punts or returning them?