The Detroit Lions are in the process of trying to find difference makers to round out their 2021 roster, and one of the biggest spots to watch in terms of this figures to be special teams.
Detroit needs a return man to step up during camp, and early on, there have been a few players who have done just that for the team.
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After practice on Wednesday, August 4, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp talked about several of the players who are in the mix at the position. As he said, there are multiple good options for the Lions so far that have emerged during camp.
“Really excited about Kalif (Raymond), obviously brought him in from Tennessee. Really like his film. Brad (Holmes) and those guys did a great job acquiring him. He’s been great since he’s got there. I think him and (Victor) Bolden, (Tom) Kennedy, (Amon-Ra) St. Brown, (D’Angelo) Amos a little bit. All of those guys have been back there a bit, all five of them. Bolden and Raymond, really explosive players,” Fipp said.
In terms of what the team is trying to accomplish, Fipp explained that working on the fundamentals is the first step for his group in camp.
“Right now you’re looking for consistency. Any time you’re back there as a returner, catching the ball is the most important thing. Goal number one for us is giving it back to the offense. That’s number one. Then you’re looking for a guy who once he gets the ball in his hands, he makes something happen,” Fipp said. “Obviously out here, there’s only so much you can do if you’re not tackling and it’s not a full cover drill. We even do stuff with those returners where we get them in short area spaces and see if they can make guys miss.”
In terms of Bolden, whom Fipp also cited as explosive, he hasn’t spent much time in the NFL, but the time he has spent, he has racked up the return yards. Bolden has only caught 1 pass for 10 yards so far in the NFL, but he has 535 return yards to his credit, which is a very respectable total given the low amount of games he’s played in his career in the league.
The former Oregon State wideout was with the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-2018, the Buffalo Bills in 2018 and was picked up by the Lions in 2019. It’s possible if he cracks the Lions roster, he will be able to contribute in a big way on special teams first and foremost.
So far, Fipp seems to be impressed with what he has seen out of Bolden and others.
Lions Having to Replace Productive Returner in Jamal Agnew
This offseason, the Lions opened a hole on special teams by letting Jamal Agnew walk. When Agnew came to Detroit as a fifth-round pick in 2017, he wasted little time making an impact on the team. Quickly, he became an All-Pro returner and was a dangerous threat seemingly every time he touched the football. Agnew figured in as a punt and kick returner, so the Lions are having to cast a wide net to find his replacements in both avenues.
Here’s a reminder of what the Lions have to replace in Agnew on special teams:
Obviously, it’s going to be a challenge to find players that stick out and can be as consistent as Agnew was, but that’s the big challenge for the Lions at this part of camp.
Lions’ Return Role Looking Wide Open Thus Far
Not only could Raymond and Bolden compete for reps, but the team figures to have a wide open competition at the spot. A player like undrafted free agent rookie D’Angelo Amos. In college, Amos was a prolific returner with over 1,500 yards to his credit and 5 touchdowns. Those numbers are eye-opening, and will at the very least guarantee that Amos is given a look at the job as well. Others on Detroit’s roster have return experience, including wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tom Kennedy. Clearly, Bolden is a player to watch for the Lions in camp as they get set to watch a battle to see who will be in the mix for the full-time role.
Thus far, the Lions have a wide open competition for this place on the roster. The good news? They seem to have plenty of players ready and willing to step up early on ready to make their impression.
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