The Detroit Lions made a number of key additions on both offense and defense this offseason, but the most intrigue at training camp could come from a heated position battle on special teams.
After struggling for years to land a consistent place kicker, the Lions finally found it last season in Michael Badgley. After starting last season on the practice squad, Badgley moved over to the active roster and went 24-for-28 on field goal attempts, earning Special Teams Player in a Week 13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But the Lions have brought in some competition this offseason, signing former XFL star John Parker Romo and acquiring Riley Patterson in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Badgley is headed to training camp as the presumptive starter, Patterson and Romo have been locked in a tight competition for who earns the right to challenge him.
XFL Star Winning Out So Far
As John Maakaron of SI.com’s All Lions reported, Romo has edged out Patterson through the first few days of minicamp. The two kickers engaged in a competition during the June 8 practice, with Patterson making six of 11 kicks and Romo making seven of 11.
Romo was already coming off an impressive performance earlier in the week, prompting SI.com’s Christian Booher to speculate that he could eventually challenge Badgley for the roster spot.
“I was super impressed by the leg of Parker Romo, the Lions’ signing from the XFL,” Booher wrote on June 4.
“Will Romo beat out the established Michael Badgley? Who’s to say? However, his performance in the kicking battle against Riley Patterson is hard to ignore. Even the kicks he missed from distance had the leg to get over the uprights.”
Parker Romo’s Surging Career
Romo was a late bloomer as a kicker, Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News noted after the team announced his signing in May. He handled mainly kickoff duties through his first three years of college at Central Arkansas and Tulsa, and didn’t get a chance to kick field goals until transferring to Virginia Tech for his final year.
Romo said in an interview with The Gridiron Crew that the extra season of eligibility given to players due to COVID was a huge boost for his career.
“The additional year of eligibility was a blessing for me,” he said. “It allowed me to be the field goal and kickoff starter from the beginning of the season to the end. It was my only season to show my capabilities as the starting kicker. I didn’t have the start to the season that I had hoped for, but I am grateful for my coaches and teammates by continuing to believe in me and finishing the season as an All-ACC kicker.”
Romo impressed at Virginia Tech, going 18-for-22 and getting some attention from the NFL. After signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent, Romo was released in August and went on to join the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas. He was the league’s most accurate kicker, converting 89.4% of his field goal attempts and earning a spot on the All-XFL Team as the league’s top kicker.