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Should Lions Lessen Jason Hanson's Duties?

I still remember the days before Jason Hanson. When the great Eddie Murray was showing his age. When I feared the Lions would have to settle down and become one of the many teams in the NFL with an average kicker. That was about 19 years ago and little did I know, the fellow taking over would be just as good and better. Jason Hanson will be starting his 19th season as a Detroit Lion and contrary to some fans belief, he is still one of the better kickers in the NFL.

In 2009, Hanson made all five of his field goal attempts under 30 yards. Between 30 and 39 yards he made 8 of his 9 attempts. Some fans might see that he only made 7 of his 10 tries between 40 and 49 yards and say he is showing his age. Even more telling would be the fact he only made 1 out of 4 tries over 50 yards. Yet the fact is, twice in his career he had worse stats than last season and it was just the year before last when he was perfect 14 of 14 over 40 yards and 8 of those were over 50 yards.

Could last season have been the point of Hanson's career starting to descend? The fact is, it very well may have been, but one cannot ignore how bad the team was either. If his statistics drop again this season, then it may be time to start looking for4 his replacement, but until then I believe he can still get the job done in Detroit. At least for field goals and extra points. Kick-offs are a totally different situation.

In 2006 and 2007, Hanson had 13 kickoffs end in touch backs in both seasons. In 2008 only 7 of his kick offs were touch backs. In 2009 the number dropped to only 4 touch backs. The steady drop is a tell tale sign that he is no longer getting the air time or the distance out of his kickoffs as he once did. Far too often his kicks are dropping near the ten yard line, allowing opposing kick returners a good position to run with the ball. In a league with the speedy returners like they have in today's NFL, it is even more important to put them back to the goal line if not in the end zone.

Looking at things from this point of view, one has to consider the idea of using a roster spot for a second kicker. A younger kicker with a power leg who has not refined his accuracy. The power kicker would handle kick offs and Hanson would handle field goals and extra points. Still, there is one other aspect that needs to be considered. Jason Hanson helps the Lions in a way that very few kickers do in the NFL.

It is one of my favorite things about Jason Hanson. Even more than his great accuracy through the years, it is his toughness that has made me a real fan of his. So often I have seen the Lions coverage fall apart, leaving Hanson as the lone defender to try and stop a return for a touch down. Most kickers in the league would try to slow the returner down and if possible push him out of bounds. Nor Hanson! Jason Hanson is more in the lines of a real football player as he often drops his pads and throws his shoulder into the runner and tackles the guy. He is not afraid to make real contact and in fact, it even seems as if he looks forward to those chances. As a kicker, his abilities to make open field tackles have saved the Lions from giving up more points than he has caused them to miss with inaccurate kicks. This fact alone makes him worth keeping in kick off duties.

IF Jim Schwartz was to decide to go with a second kicker to handle kick off duties, I would not scream about it. Hanson's stats say that it may very well be time to do something like that. But if Schwartz is fine with the shorter kick offs and keeps Hanson out there, I am still happy to know you can count on him to be that consistent safety net.

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