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Monday open thread: Is Don Muhlbach a roster lock in 2020?

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Has Father Time finally crept up to the Mule?

NFL: SEP 15 Chargers at Lions Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All good things must come to an end, right? The Detroit Lions fanbase are certainly hoping that is not the case with Don Muhlbach.

The longest tenured member of the Lions has become a beloved part of the team. Long snappers hardly get any attention, but that also makes them an enigma. What makes a good snap? Most casual football fans can give a rough estimate — accurate and quick — but it is an art form, and it is an art that Muhlbach has mastered.

Yet all masters must retire at some point, and Muhlbach’s time might be close. But is 2020 his time?

Muhlbach enters the 2020 season as the fifth oldest player in the NFL, behind three quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Schaub) and fellow long snapper L.P. Ladouceur. Long snapping is a position not greatly affected by age like running back or wide receiver, but hitting the 40-year-old barrier is a rare occurrence. Muhlbach will turn 39 on August 17, so this could be his last hurrah. Jon Condo, a fellow long-standing long snapper, retired last season at the age 38.

Additionally, the Lions have a solid plan for the future in Steven Wirtel. Wirtel was hardly a household name entering — or exiting — the draft, but as one of the best snappers in college football last season, he is among the best replacements you could find. I did not do him justice by naming him the 90th-best Lions player this season, but that speaks more to the value of the position and the fact that we have hardly seen him as a pro.

The Lions cut down their roster to 80 players on Sunday, and many of the cuts were guys on the roster bubble. On paper, Wirtel looks like an easy cut to make, but the Lions decision to hang onto him indicates that they want to take a good look at the rookie.

Will the Lions stick with the dependable-but-aging veteran, or go for the promising young talent?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Is Don Muhlbach a roster lock in 2020?

My answer: I think Muhlbach will make the roster, but it will be closer than most of us expect. There are two important factors to consider:

  1. Due to the reduced training camp and preseason, we will not get any in-game experience prior to the regular season. You could argue that snapping in practice and during a game is not significantly different, but the experience that Muhlbach brings is incredibly important. Cohesion is vital to a successful special teams unit, given that timing can make-or-break a field goal attempt or punt. Edge, Muhlbach. However...
  2. The Lions have a new punter. The chemistry that Muhlbach previously had might not matter. Muhlbach snapped to Sam Martin for a majority of the 2010s, but the 2020 Lions will likely have either Jack Fox or Arryn Siposs holding and punting. Muhlbach and Wirtel both have the same level of chemistry with the punters: zero. The timing for field goals might affect Matt Prater, but it is not enough to give either player the edge.

Muhlbach’s experience will likely earn him a roster spot given the season circumstances. Wirtel will definitely have a chance to win the starting spot, but he will need an impressive training camp to do so.

Your turn.

Poll

Is Don Muhlbach a roster lock in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Yes
    (185 votes)
  • 26%
    No
    (66 votes)
251 votes total Vote Now