For the last half-decade, training camp for special teams has been an afterthought for the Detroit Lions. Matt Prater has been the unchallenged kicker, Sam Martin has been the clear punter, and Don Muhlbach has been the long snapper since the position was invented.
But this year there will be at least one new member among the three-man crew. We’re in uncharted territory here in Lions training camp, which means #PunterWatch2020 is on.
Here’s our 2020 Detroit Lions training camp preview of special teams.
Roster locks: K Matt Prater, LS Don Muhlbach
On the bubble: P Jack Fox, P Arryn Siposs
Long shot: LS Steven Wirtel
Key departures: P Sam Martin
Last year, the Lions must have seen the writing on the wall with Martin, so they signed punter Jack Fox towards the end of the season to get a good feeling on him in preparation for Martin’s departure. According to Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett, Fox “impressed in an early-December workout and the Lions have high hopes for him in 2020.”
He was apparently impressive enough that the Lions didn’t even bother drafting a punter like many believed they would. Instead, they went outside the box and grabbed former Aussie Football League and Auburn’s punter Arryn Siposs. Siposs has a pretty big leg—not quite as big as Fox’s—but his best attribute (other than his singing pipes) is his directional skills.
Fox likely has the upper hand entering camp, but this has not yet been settled.
Death, Taxes, Muhlbach.... right?
Many have challenged the throne of Muhlbach at long snapper and none have survived. This year’s challenger in undrafted rookie Steven Wirtel, who was a finalist in 2019 for the best long snapper in the nation after his four year career at Iowa State.
Muhlbach has given no real reason to believe he can’t continue to hold his job, but at some point the Lions are going to have to choose a younger option (Wirtel is 22) over the aging Muhlbach (38). Is this the year? I’m not betting against the Muhl.
Prater-Muhlbach-Fox. Simple as that.