By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Detroit Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford played just one series in the team’s preseason opener Saturday night, and to say the offense looked shaky under the direction of backup Dan Orlovsky would be an understatement.
In contrast, when third-string quarterback Kellen Moore came in late in the game, he completed 11 of 13 attempts and threw a touchdown, the only one for the Lions all game. His passer rating was an impressive 131.1.
Despite the offense’s relative success with Moore compared to its sluggishness with Orlovsky, who completed 12 of 23 passes and exited the game with a 61.7 passer rating, head coach Jim Caldwell was measured in his evaluation of both immediately after the game.
“We’ll look and just see,” Caldwell said. “[Moore] functioned pretty well, I think, in the situation that he was in. I think Dan did some decent things too. There were a couple situations where they didn’t catch the ball for him, so it looks like maybe he didn’t move the ball as well as he was capable, but I think there were some extenuating circumstances there too. Both guys are smart guys that you can see they understand the offense and function within it fairly well.”
Orlovsky played for Caldwell in Indianapolis, where the Colts had to rely on Orlovsky and several others in 2011 after longtime quarterback Peyton Manning was lost for the season to injury. That was the year the Colts went 2-14, and Caldwell was subsequently fired.
As underwhelming as Orlovsky looked to many observers, Moore seemed solid, and teammates spoke highly of his ability, despite the fact he has never played in a regular season NFL game.
“He’s a great player or he wouldn’t be here,” wide receiver Ryan Broyles said. “He made some great throws tonight. He was poised. The last one to Corey Fuller was a dime. You couldn’t ask for a better ball, and he did that for him.”
Former Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson, who now plays for the Browns, also endorsed Moore.
“He’s one of those guys who can predict the movement of the receivers, and his balls don’t seem like they have a lot of zip on it, but they always find their place,” Burleson said. “I joked about him saying that he’s psychic because he knows exactly where guys are and he can put the ball where it needs to be, and that’s what I saw today. Same thing he did when I was here. He would drop the ball in a pocket that nobody saw but him, and he would have that kind of goofy, childish smirk on his face like he did after the touchdown.
“It was good to see him balling out, man, because he was a hell of a college quarterback,” Burleson added. “There’s questions if he can be an NFL quarterback, and I think he proved that today, like he has been since he’s been here.”
Burleson said Moore is a smart quarterback and pointed to his ability to make adjustments as evidence.
“He knows where the receivers are, and if he has to release the ball earlier than expected, it might seem a little bit awkward if you’re watching it, but the ball’s going to drop in the same place as if he took a full drop,” Burleson said. “He’s really good at his movement, his foot movement. He’ll just slide to left, slide to the right, take a step up and get in the pocket. That’s what good quarterbacks do. They don’t panic. They don’t rush out of the pocket and abort mission.”
Moore himself was modest after the game Saturday. He served as third-string quarterback the past two seasons also, with Shaun Hill the primary backup. Though Moore said he feels confident when he takes the field, he understood why the Lions acquired Orlovsky; Moore certainly will not argue against a team wanting someone with more experience.
If the 25-year-old is gunning for a spot higher on the depth chart, he does not admit it.
“I don’t really think about it too much,” Moore said. “I don’t worry about it. I think the biggest thing is just focus on yourself, trying to become the best quarterback you can be, and wherever those chips fall, that’s where they fall.
“You learn your role and you go with it,” Moore added later. “Try and become the best third-string quarterback – if that’s what you are, goal is to become the best third-string quarterback in the NFL, and you go from there.”