ALLEN PARK — Rookie long snapper Jimmy Landes has been pretty good. Especially lately.
“He’s making good progress,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s getting a lot of opportunities, so he’s improving.”
He’s squaring off with Don Muhlbach for the lone spot on the roster at long snapper. And Muhlbach, entering Year 13, remains one of the best in the business.
“There’s a reason why Mule has been in this league for so long,” Landes said with a smile, when asked whether Muhlbach has had any bad snaps through the first week of camp.
And that means the pressure could be on Landes to be better than pretty good if he want to outduel Muhlbach. He just might have to be perfect.
“Pretty close,” he said. “Pretty damn close. (Because) Mule is really good.”
Muhlbach was signed by the Lions in 2004, and by all accounts, remained one of the league’s top long snappers through last year. So it surprised some when new GM Bob Quinn used a sixth-round pick to draft Landes out of Baylor.
Not only did the Lions already have a guy reputed to be one of the best at that position, but nobody really drafts players at that position anyway. Landes was just the fifth in the common draft era.
Obviously, the Lions — especially Quinn — are really high on Landes, and his snaps indeed are impressive. But he’s had some struggles with picking up the blocking, because in college the long snapper cannot be touched after snapping the ball.
In the NFL, he’s got some big boys coming after him.
“It’s just, you have to be that much quicker, and sometimes my snaps have been off,” he said. “So just trying to be consistent on snapping and blocking. … Sometimes when I make a bad snap, I know, ‘All right, I got into the block too fast,’ and I know I have to finish the snap.”
If what Landes says about Muhlbach is true, the Lions could have an interesting dilemma on their hands. Do they cut a long snapper, after shocking everyone by taking him in the first place? Or do they cut the veteran who has been and remains one of the league’s best?
At any rate, Landes says there’s no animosity between the fellow East Texans as they battle for the job.
“He’s just been a great guy, and really taught me the NFL and how everything works in this league,” Landes said. “Just watching Mule snap too, he’s just unbelievable. So I’m just learning from the best right now, and we’re competing for one spot.
“But Mule is absolutely the best snapper in the league.”