Allen Park — In terms of training camp competitions, the Detroit Lions are running a little light on battles for starting jobs this year.
On offense, the majority of the starters from 2019 are back. The biggest changes are along the offensive line, where big-ticket free agent Halapoulivaati Vaitai was signed to replace Rick Wagner at right tackle, and all signs point to third-round draft pick Jonah Jackson having the leg up for the right guard job.
Defensively, it’s a matter of when, not if, Jeff Okudah will take hold of a starting job. And with newcomers Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Duron Harmon and Nick Williams, it’s figuring out how much of the rotation they’ll see at their respective spots.
And while there are plenty of backup roles to sort out, one job that has looked wide open from the onset has been punter, where Jack Fox is going head-to-head (or is it foot-to-foot?) with undrafted rookie Arryn Siposs.
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“I’m really excited about it, really excited about both of those guys,” Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said earlier this month. “We’re going to have competition across the board at every position, not just punter. …Those two guys, they’re both very talented. I think they both have high ceilings. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. Neither of them has done it in a game. With no preseason that’s definitely going to be a little different, but we’re going to find ways to make it hyper-competitive in practice and put them under competitive situations and we’ll see who rises to the top.”
Through three practices, the Lions have yet to test Fox or Siposs in many competitive team situations, opting to let them get the majority of their work in on the side. But that’s expected to pick up in the coming days, as the team tries to settle on who will replace Sam Martin, who held the job the past seven years prior to departing in free agency this offseason.
“I think they both have extremely outstanding leg talent,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Jack was here with us last year, and we saw his ability. The ball just explodes off his foot just when he drives into it. Certainly with Siposs, a guy that’s a little bit older, even though he’s just coming out of college — very calm, another really strong leg, very consistent.
“Certainly, as we go through camp, we’re going to have to turn up the pressure a little bit, just on some of the different looks they’re going to see and get them a feel for what that rush looks like when it’s coming at them and see how they perform under pressure. It’s always a little bit interesting when you’re trying to do that with the punt and the punt protection, but we have to see that the best we can without the preseason games to see how that goes.”
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Patricia went on to commend both punters for not only aggressively competing against each other, but also being good teammates who are willing to help the other out.
Fox, an undrafted rookie out of Rice a season ago, spent several weeks on Detroit’s practice squad after he was signed in December. Prior to coming to the Lions, he spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad.
At Rice University, Fox averaged 45.5 yards on punts in 2018, ranking 10th in the country.
As for Siposs, he signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn this offseason. He played two years with the Tigers, averaging 43.8 yards per boot in 2019. The 27-year-old Australian native formerly played five seasons of professional football with St. Kilda in the Australian Football League.