I'm saying it: Lions need Hanson

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

One story that’s fallen under the radar, at least on this blog, has been the health of Detroit placekicker Jason Hanson.

Coach Jim Schwartz announced on Aug. 18 -- ironically, during the three hours I spent with the Lions this summer -- that Hanson had undergone a surgical procedure on his knee. The knee was later determined to be the one connected to his kicking leg; Hanson sat out the final three preseason games. He’s currently on track to kick Sunday at New Orleans, although it could be in a reduced capacity.

I consider this a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, even minor knee surgery for a kicker is a big deal. Some will tell you that the strength of the plant leg is more important, but anything that changes the motion or strength of a kicking leg can’t be good.

Second, Hanson quite frankly was the Lions’ best player last year. His 21-of-22 performance, including eight-for-eight from beyond 50 yards, was Detroit’s brightest light in a nightmare season. While I expect the Lions offense to be more explosive this season under new coordinator Scott Linehan, it’s comforting to know you’re in legitimate scoring range anytime you cross the 40-yard line.

Hanson is the only kicker on the Lions roster at this moment, but that doesn’t mean he will handle all of the kicking against the Saints. The Lions could easily sign a placekicker during the next few days to handle kickoffs or the entire job for one week. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press indicates the Lions will monitor Hanson’s swelling and soreness before making a decision at the end of the week.

I’m not going to say Hanson’s presence will make or break the Lions’ chances to win in New Orleans. Normally, I wouldn’t spend more than a couple of sentences breaking down an injury to a kicker. (Apologies to Gould, Robbie; Longwell, Ryan and Crosby, Mason.) But the Lions will need everything going for them to compete with the Saints, and that includes having Jason Hanson at full strength.