Lions camp battles: Starting kicker

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Who will emerge as the Detroit Lions' starting kicker?

As we continue to get ready for Detroit Lions training camp, we're going to examine some of the position battles that will be worth keeping an eye on over the course of the next month and a half or so. Next up is the battle for the starting kicker job.

When free agency opened earlier this year, there was no expectation that the Lions would have to find a new kicker. Jason Hanson seemingly made it known that he was coming back for his 22nd season in the NFL, but a deal never came about. Then, a few weeks later, he surprisingly announced his retirement, leaving a massive void at the kicker position.

In order to fill that void, the Lions brought in two players this offseason. One is a veteran who has been a starter in the NFL since 1999, and the other is a rookie who had zero American football experience up until he joined the Lions. Needless to say, this could potentially be a very interesting competition to watch in training camp.

The candidates

David Akers, of course, is the veteran kicker on the roster for the Lions. Although he struggled in 2012 with 13 missed field goals for the San Francisco 49ers, Akers has a long track record of success in the NFL. He's been around the block, and if he can stay healthy, perhaps he will get back to how he played in 2011, when he converted 44 of his 52 field goal attempts.

The rookie is Norway's Havard Rugland, who is best known as "Kickalicious" thanks to his trick-shot video that went viral. Rugland may be inexperienced, but he seemingly had a pretty impressive offseason with the Lions. He will need to continue to be impressive in training camp and the preseason to beat out Akers and become the Lions' starting kicker.

Who has the edge right now?

Akers is without a doubt the favorite to replace Hanson. Rugland's story is quite amazing, but it's tough to see the Lions turning down Akers' experience in favor of someone who is relatively new to the game of American football. If Akers struggles, the door will certainly be open for Rugland to pull off the upset and win this competition, but this is Akers' job to lose going into training camp.

Previously: Third-string quarterback, No. 4 wide receiver, starting right guard, starting right tackle, starting left outside linebacker, starting right cornerback

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