Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 7/24/13
LOOKING BACK The special teams were in disarray the first month after allowing both a punt return and a kick return for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. Danny Crossman, the special teams coordinator, was under fire with some calling for him to be canned immediately. The coverage units quietly got their act together and finished the season out respectably, but the return game and the punter were a problem all season long. The Lions finished 31st in kick returns (20-yard average) and 22nd in punt returns (8.6-yard average). Stefan Logan, the team's top return specialist, got benched for the final game. Punter Ben Graham was injured in the third week and replaced by Nick Harris, who ranked 32nd in gross-punt average and 27th in net-punt average. PLAYERS GONE Kicker Jason Hanson, who made 32-of-36 field goals last season, decided to retire after a 21-year career. He cited a foot injury, but Hanson had previously indicated he planned to return for another season before receiving a lowball contract offer. The Lions also lost free agent Kassim Osgood, one of the gunners on punt coverage, who signed with NFC champion San Francisco. Neither Logan nor Harris was re-signed, leaving Pro Bowl long-snapper Don Muhlbach as the only returning specialist. PLAYERS ADDED David Akers, a 15-year veteran, was signed to take over for Hanson. The Lions also added Youtube sensation Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland to compete in training camp. Desperately in need of a stronger leg at punter, the club used a fifth-round draft pick on Appalachian State's Sam Martin. Micheal Spurlock, who returned a punt and a kick return for touchdowns last season with San Diego, was a free-agent acquisition. Another underrated pick-up was Montell Owens, who has been one of the league's top coverage guys in recent years with Jacksonville. FIVE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW 1. Crossman never got fired, but he left to take a similar job in Buffalo. Detroit replaced him with former Jacksonville special-teams coordinator John Bonamego, who was a walk-on player at Central Michigan. The Lions spent more time on special teams during their mini camp last month, including a greater emphasis on blocking kickspunts. How much, if at all, can Bonamego improve these special-teams units in his first year? 2. Akers is coming off his worst season in the NFL, largely because of a groin injury. He did little kicking during the Lions' off-season program, but he's expected to be ready to go by the season, if not the start of camp on Friday. We'll see. 3. The kickpunt return specialists should create a little interest in preseason games. It takes live competition to fully evaluate those jobs. Spurlock has the track record to be the man, but Steven Miller, an undrafted free-agent running back out of Appalachian State, appears determined to make a name for himself in the league. Other possibilities include receiver Patrick Edwards (practice squad last year), Joique Bell (replaced Logan on kicks for final game) and Mike Thomas (replaced Logan on punts for final game). 4. The Lions could have selected UCLA's Jeff Locke, considered the top punter in the draft, but they got a little greedy. They traded down in the fifth round to get an extra pick and by then, Locke was gone, taken 10 spots earlier by division rival Minnesota. Detroit settled for Martin, who had three average years in college before emerging as a prospect as a senior. Who will have the better rookie year - and career - Locke or Martin? 5. Ronnell Lewis, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, came to the Lions with the nickname of "The Hammer" and a reputation for being a standout special-teams player. But he was a flop as a rookie, ended up inactive for the final seven games and then got arrested for a bar fight during the off-season. Lewis needs to make an impact on special teams or he might not be on the 53-man roster.
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