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After Hiring John Bonamego, Special Teams is No Longer Detroit Lions’ Top Priority

January 21st, 2013 at 11:05 AM
By Max DeMara

Am I the only one who misses Chuck Priefer and the quality special teams he once demanded and commanded?

Apparently so, because the Detroit Lions appear to have made yet another hiring mistake on the special side of the ball. New special teams coach John Bonamego might have deep Michigan ties. He may have helped the Jacksonville Jaguars kickers and punters immensely, but his two most important statistics as they relate to the Lions are each similarly awful.

Under Bonamego, the Jaguars ranked near the bottom 10 in the league in kickoff returns and kickoff coverage, precisely the two areas the Lions failed to improve under Danny Crossman, and before that, Stan Kwan. This was supposed to be a fresh start. Am I missing something with this particular hire?

The knock on the Jaguars last season, of course, was their lack of play makers on special teams and in the return game. Ironically, the Lions have that same problem, meaning coaching and scheme is the one area which must improve dramatically in order to create meaningful change in this area. The pressure's on Bonamego to come up with some different schemes, identify new talent and coach it up.

Detroit's special teams hasn't been an asset since Priefer retired. Since joining the Lions with Bobby Ross, he transformed the team into one of the best cover units in the league. Kicking and punting remained solid, but Priefer was best at setting up capable returns and coverage. On the whole, his groups always helped the Lions win instead of aiding in their demise. Quite frankly, Lions' fans are sick of watching long returns and short return results go against their team.

That's probably because for years, the Lions have been considered one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to their special teams. From Steve Belichick running back punts to Mel Gray returning kickoffs to Desmond Howard and Eddie Drummond to Scott Kowalkowski wrangling down opposing returners, Detroit has always had difference makers to flip field position and win a close game. Where have those players gone? Moreover, who's been finding them and coaching them up? Little of that has been happening lately.

Hopefully, Bonamego has been paying attention to everything that has gone wrong for the Lions since Priefer left in 2006. What Kwan and Crossman taught simply didn't work. They weren't given the proper personnel by the front office, either. For Bonamego to be successful, the Lions will have to make special teams a priority again. With this disappointing hire, Detroit doesn't look to be off to a great start in that department.

As always, we'll wait and see exactly what happens. Despite that, the Lions appear to have come a long, wrong way on special teams since the days of old, and even more recently, Priefer.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on his personal Twitter account @SportsGuyTheMax or on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Chuck Priefer, Danny Crossman, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, John Bonamego, NFL, Stan Kwan

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