DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Lion fans are still excited about the Reggie Bush leap, the Ziggy hustle and the overall Lions muscle that played out in Friday’s 26-17 preseason victory over the New York Jets.
But let me bore you with something that isn’t exciting — but necessary. And we must not only see it in Game 2 against the Browns in Cleveland but for the entire regular season.
The Lions might have a legitimate kicking game in a rookie from a tiny school and a man whose resume is on a You Tube video.
The Lions could very well begin the season with Kickalicious and Thunder foot as their place kicker and punter. Havard Rugland is no longer a novelty. He has a legitimate shot to beat out veteran David Akers to replace Jason Hanson as place kicker.
And punter Sam Martin from Appalachian State might leave the Lions for NASA to boot footballs in orbit to see if they can withstand zero gravity. Dudes got leg.
Mr. Kickalicious did not kick a ball into a shopping cart or into a running burning clown car. He simply booted field goals of 49 and 50 yards. Most importantly he got the ball over rushing linemen which still might be a concern because his balls are so low. His boots earned him heart felt high fives from teammates and he even got a bear hug and ride off the field from linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
Just a side note here; People are usually carried off the field because of a Tulloch hit, not a warm embrace.
“It just goes to show that we are a team,” Rugland said. “We want the best for everybody on the team. We try to help each other. We are rooting for everybody to do great.”
Rugland cannot talk about the future out of respect for Akers. But I can. Do not laugh. Rugland could be the guy when the regular season begins. Akers is an example of how precarious the job of being field goal kicker is.
In September of last year he tied an NFL record by hitting a 63-yard field goal for San Francisco against the Green Bay Packers at kicker’s paradise Lambeau Field (can you hear the sarcasm?). Six months later he was out of a job.
And this is no NFL scrub. He made six Pro Bowls.
“My only focus is to go out and do my best and get better every day and control what I can control,” Rugland said. “I can’t do much more than that. I just want to show that I am a reliable and good kicker and be the best I can be.”
Teammates do root for him, which is great to see.
“The guy is a great guy,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It’s refreshing to see how much fun he is having. The guy’s having a blast here and he’s kicking the ball great.”
Ndamukong Suh likes the Norwegian accent, and I would agree.
A few weeks ago I met Sam Martin the punter that is built like a small college linebacker and I admitted to him that I was curious why the Lions used a fifth-round pick on him. Now you can see why. The guy is going to tear a hole through the Ford Field roof someday. His development is important because the Lions have had a gong show over the years at punter.
Do you know who Ben Graham is? I didn’t think so. He started last season as the Lions punter but an injury sideline him. Then they brought back Nick Harris a year after releasing him.
The job is not sexy but it is important. Martin booted a 53-yard punt in the game but more importantly it pinned the Jets deep in their territory. He is the real deal.
The Lions special teams can be greatly improved if Havard is booting field goals and if Martin can be the punter and kickoff specialist.
Let me first throw out a disclaimer because it is a preseason game and teams only play their top guys for a few series and do not show their true colors or true packages.
However, the defensive line looks like a group of caged Lions. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley said he and Ndamukong Suh are the best defensive tackle team in the game. You cannot argue with them. And you cannot help but notice that Ziggy Ansah is more than a physical specimen. That interception and touchdown in the first quarter was also built on watching game film and reading the other team.
Smart rookies don’t come down the pike very often around here.
The secondary seems better, the revamped offensive line was solid and now if the Lions can get better line backing play you never know what can happen.
Oh, and I knew Reggie Bush was a speed demon. I did not know he was a hurdler.
But let’s take a chill pill here. Repeat after me. It’s just the preseason. It’s just the preseason.
Kickalicious is no longer cute and cuddly, although he is cute and cuddly. But he is here to get a real job in the real NFL. Maybe the same can be said of the Lions. They might not be cute and cuddly any more either. They appear to be a team that wants to do real damage in the NFL.
(Foster can be reached at Terry.Foster@cbsradio.com. Twitter: TerryFoster971.)