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Lions training camp position previews: Special teams

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Matt Prater, left

This is the seventh in a series of position previews ahead of the start of Lions training camp on Monday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

For the fourth straight season, the Lions will have a different Week 1 kicker.

Fortunately, Matt Prater already gained the team's trust during his 11 games with Detroit last season, and with a training camp to prepare with his teammates, he could return to his Pro Bowl level from Denver.

In his two seasons as punter and kickoff man, Sam Martin has showcased a strong leg, and he should continue to improve at age 25. He ranked ninth in net average — 40.1 yards — last season, and increasing that and avoiding ill-timed blunders would make him one of the league's top punters.

Long snapper Don Muhlbach is entering his 12th NFL season and has avoided major issues the past couple seasons.

For now, the return positions are up in the air. Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah is the frontrunner, but the preseason games should provide insight into who will take the job.

Roster locks: K Matt Prater, P Sam Martin, LS Don Muhlbach.

Bubble: K Kyle Brindza.

Roster spots: Three.

Top camp competition: The only real work in camp will be finding a return man. Abdullah is the favorite to handle punts and kickoffs, but receiver Jeremy Ross could defend his gig. Golden Tate should be a candidate on punts, too.

Rookie outlook: Brindza will have opportunities in the preseason, but will only have a chance with the Lions if Prater suffers an injury.

Breakout candidate: Martin. He's been around the top 10 in most punting categories his first two seasons and could ascend higher in Year 3.