Detroit Lions special teams in 2020 was the one aspect of the team that was not only reliable, but they were, at times, deadly. Detroit finished the season 11th in special teams DVOA and third in Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings. Of course, because the Lions can’t have anything nice, their special teams coordinator was fired midseason due to going rogue and calling a failed fake punt. But I digress.
Detroit’s special teams unit featured one of the best punters in the league, one of the best kick/punt return specialists, and perhaps the most clutch kicker of all time.
Here are your nominees for Detroit Lions 2020 Special Teams Player of the Year:
Stats: 49.1 yards per punt, 44.8 net average, 26 punts inside the 20, 7 touchbacks
In 2019, Fox’s addition to the practice squad was an afterthought, seeing as the Lions had a decent punter in Sam Martin. But when the Lions decided to move on from Martin in 2020, suddenly Fox—who had never punted in a regular season game—was lined up to be Detroit’s punter of the future.
After a close training camp battle, Fox assumed the position and thrived immediately. His booming punts not only had the distance Detroit was looking for, but with an impressive hangtime, he allowed Detroit’s coverage teams to get in place and prevent any kind of returns. As a team, the Lions allowed just 116 punt return yards on the season (fourth fewest).
As for Fox himself, he finished the season third in punting average and second in net average. That net average of 44.8, by the way, is currently longer than the all-time leader in punt return average for a career (44.5) and ranks third all-time for a single season.
Fox’s brilliant season—his first as a starter—earned him both All Pro and Pro Bowl nods.
Stats: 21-of-28 FGs, 38-of-41 XPs
In terms of accuracy, 2020 wasn’t one of Matt Prater’s best seasons. However, he was still money from short yardage, nailing all 11 kicks from 39 yards or shorter.
Also, Prater was absolutely perfect in big-time moments. He had three game-winnings kicks with no time on the clock, including a monster 59-yard boom against the Washington Football Team and a challenging 48-yard extra point in Atlanta.
In 2020, Prater broke the NFL record for most 50+ yards field goals in a career. He also maintained one of his most impressive feats: he has still not missed a game-winning or game-tying kick in the fourth quarter or overtime. Clutchness, defined.
Stats: 28 kick returns, 783 yards (28.0 avg); 14 punt returns, 178 yards (12.7 avg.), 1 TD
Agnew’s 2020 got off to a slow start, both in the special teams department and in his newfound role on offense. However, toward the end of the season, Agnew recaptured some of his magic as a returner, and finished the year with some impressive numbers.
His 28.0 yards per kick return average—boltered by a 71-yard return late in the season—was fourth best among returners with at least 10 attempts. His punt return average of 12.7 was second only to the Patriots’ Gunner Olszewski.
Agnew did not earn Pro Bowl or All Pro honors this year, but his efforts did earn him a spot on PFWA’s All-NFC team.
Who was the Lions’ 2020 Special Teams Player of the Year?
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