Lions coach Dan Campbell: Special teams are the tiebreaker in roster decisions

·2 min read

With roster cutdowns looming before Tuesday’s deadline, Lions head coach Dan Campbell offered some insight into the decision-making process on the roster bubble players.

“Always the tiebreaker is going to be special teams. That’s the first, and I mean if it’s close at all, it needs to be somebody we know can help us on special teams,” Campbell said before Friday’s practice. Campbell put special teams above dependability and trust in his pecking order.

Those words reinforced what Lions coaches have stressed all summer both on and off the record. The bottom-of-roster players must prove they can be assets on punting and kickoff units. Campbell and his staff devoted over a third of Tuesday night’s final padded practice to special teams blocking and coverage drills, and the players attacked it like their jobs depended upon it.

Campbell extrapolated on the value of special teams and positional importance with a later answer in the same press conference.

“The backup safety position is big right now. And as it relates to special teams, the backup linebacker, forget even these guys are jockeying for positions as starters, but also the backend of that, relative to the halfbacks. Who’s going to help us more on special teams? The receivers, relative to the DBs. The tight ends relative to the linebackers or running backs, like who’s going to give us the most bang for our buck on special teams plays a lot into it.

So that’s why I say – like there’s going to be some guys here potentially, I’m looking for a couple of guys on special teams to really – I want to see them light it up and if they do, it may not have anything to do with how good somebody does on offense or defense. Like if they show up the way I think they can on special teams, they’re going to earn a spot. So, that’s just, that’s kind of where we’re at. And that’s why a lot can happen between now and Monday or Tuesday.”

In other words, pay very close attention to the special teams units when the Lions play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final preseason game on Sunday afternoon. For some players (think Tom Kennedy, Justin Jackson, JuJu Hughes, Trinity Benson, Josh Woods among others) it means more than their contributions on offense or defense in terms of their Lions roster destinies…

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire