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Detroit Lions bubble watch: Special teams battle predictions

We make our predictions for the two main specials teams battles at Lions camp this year.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In a normal Detroit Lions training camp, the specialists are an afterthought. They’ve basically had two kickers since 1992, and they’ve had one long snapper since 2004. In 2021, the Lions will have a new kicker. There’s even an outside chance they have a new long snapper. I’m not one to get very excited about special teams, but if you are, this could be a rare, entertaining camp for you.

With Matt Prater out of the picture, the Lions will have to choose between two new kickers: a veteran or a young player with a thin, but promising resume.

At long snapper, incumbent Don Muhlbach is fighting both the aging process and yet another young specialist hoping to make football a career after a couple of years of wandering.

Over the weekend, the Pride of Detroit staff made their predictions for these two camp battles, as the Lions hit the practice field for the first time Wednesday morning.


2021 Bubble Watch Week 1: Special Teams

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL
LS Don Muhlbach IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8
K Randy Bullock IN IN OUT OUT IN IN IN IN 6

#KickerWatch 2021

  • Randy Bullock — 6 votes
  • Matthew Wright - 1 vote

Most of the staff has 10-year veteran Randy Bullock securing the kicker job. Bullock has had a successful NFL career. Heck, any kicker that can last 10 years is an automatic success. He doesn’t offer a ton of accuracy for long kicks, but he has recently made kicks of 55 and 57 yards in the past couple of years.

Interestingly, though, the one special teams expert on our staff—Hamza Baccouche, who dabbles in the punting game—picked Matthew Wright to win the job. Wright only has three games of experience in the NFL, but he hasn’t missed a kick yet (out of four field goals and seven extra points). He, too, comes with power issues. Mainly, he never kicks long field goals. He’s only made kicks from 50 yards or under since college.

Then there’s Mike Payton, who boldly predicted that neither kicker will end up winning the job. I think I speak for everyone here when I say, I hope that doesn’t happen.


  • Don Muhlbach — 8 votes
  • Scott Daly — 0 votes

Don Muhlbach has vanquished many, but at some point, father time comes for everyone. Muhlbach turns 40 in a couple of weeks, but that didn’t stop every single person on staff from having him win the job over Scott Daly.

Daly has tried to keep his football career alive after leaving Notre Dame in 2017 by joining both the AAF and the XFL, but both leagues ceased operations while he was under contract. Beating Muhlbach in a camp battle may prove to be a tougher task than keeping a secondary professional football league alive.

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