Detroit Lions’ Backup Quarterback Situation Through Training Camp

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Jake Rudock Appears To Remain The Favorite To Win The Lions’ Backup Quarterback Position. 

One of the primary questions going into Detroit Lions’ training camp was how the organization was going to handle the Lions’ backup quarterback situation. The Detroit Lions cut longtime backup Dan Orlovsky earlier in the offseason. He has since signed to the Los Angeles Rams.

Jake Rudock, the Detroit Lions’ 6th round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, while on the Detroit Lions practice squad, received interest from the Chicago Bears before ultimately getting called up to the 53-man roster to protect his spot on the Detroit Lions.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Brad Kaaya in the 6th round out of the University of Miami. Coming into training camp, he was expected to battle Rudock for the Lions’ backup quarterback position.

The question then became, is the team going to keep three quarterbacks on the roster? Or does the year begin with just one Lions’ backup quarterback. Both backup quarterbacks saw significant reps throughout all of Lions’ training camp. They both showed promise and improvement at times, but they also both showed why they are backups and why they were sixth round picks in the NFL Draft.

The Detroit Lions’ backup quarterback position is likely going to be a continuous close-fought battle throughout all of preseason. Both quarterbacks are eligible for the practice squad, but both quarterbacks could garner interest from quarterback starved teams around the NFL. This could leave the Detroit Lions in a tough position, trying to maintain the assets that they spent draft capital on, without using up spots on the 53-man roster.

Most Lions fans will agree that if Matthew Stafford goes down with a significant injury, the season is over, and that whoever the Lions’ backup quarterback is, will likely not be able to bring them on any sort of significant playoff run.

That leaves the Lions with several benefits from their backup quarterback. The first is having a player to hold a clipboard and help Matthew Stafford with his game preparation. If this were what the Lions were primarily interested in, they probably would have gone with a more seasoned veteran, rather than players that are still learning the bulk of the NFL game.

The second is having a developmental prospect. The Lions are not holding either of these players hoping that they can come in and make a playoff run in the event of a Stafford injury. Neither player appears ready for this. These two quarterbacks are on the roster to develop into stronger players that can be assets down the line. There are several routes the Lions can take from there.

The first route is to trade away the Lions’ backup quarterback once he has developed into a player that can pay off on the 6th round investment. If the Lions can trade one of these players for a fourth round pick after using a sixth round pick, the investment has paid off.

The second route would be for the Lions to hope that one of these backup quarterbacks eventually does develop into a quarterback that can act as a place holder and win games in Stafford’s absence. Quarterbacks don’t develop overnight. If this is the organization is looking for in the Lions’ backup quarterback, it will likely be a long term investment.

Bob Quinn has discussed adding a quarterback every year to help drive competition. If he sticks to that and continues that trend, we will likely be seeing a lot of turnover at the backup quarterback position in coming years. If this is the case, the Lions could hold three quarterbacks on the roster or practice squad for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t seem prudent to be changing out the Lions’ backup quarterback every single year. That doesn’t allow enough development time for any prospects to grow enough to return on the draft investment or develop into a capable backup.

However, if the team kept a third quarterback on the roster, this would allow a Lions’ backup quarterback to grow into that type of player while also churning the bottom of the quarterback depth to provide competition and give the coaches looks at different options.

The more likely scenario is that one of them moves to the practice squad and the team pulls them up to the 53-man roster if another team tries to poach him.

Neither quarterback looked particularly strong over the course of training camp, but the edge has to go to Rudock right now. Kaaya looked more comfortable as the week went on, and Rudock seemed to struggle more toward the end of camp, but Rudock still looks like the more polished player.

If Kaaya went to the practice squad, it is entirely possible that no body tries to steal him. This is the ideal scenario for the Lions. They get to keep both quarterbacks going forward, but don’t have to spend a roster spot on him. This is what I would expect the Lions to try first, especially given that they will probably keep four tight ends.

Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! You can follow me on Twitter @Lanny1925 and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Sean Lanigan
I love fantasy football, fantasy baseball, music, books, video games, and all things nerd. I'm a big football fan and a bigger Detroit Lions fan. I was born in Michigan but have spent the vast majority of my life living in Viking and Packer country. If you are a Lions fan in Minnesota, hit me up, and let's watch some football.