By Will Burchfield
In an unexpected twist to Detroit Lions training camp, rookie Jake Rudock is pushing veteran Dan Orlovsky for the role of backup quarterback.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Possible?
The job remains Orlovsky’s to lose, but his faulty play — coupled with Rudock’s quick development — has cast the situation into doubt.
“We’re still looking for the best player at that spot for us,” Jim Caldwell said on Sunday. “That’s really what it boils down to.”
And that player might not be the same one as last year.
Orlovsky has backed up Matthew Stafford for the past two seasons. He’s rarely been called into action, but he has an obvious leg up on Rudock in terms of familiarity with the offense. What’s more, Orlovsky’s 11 years in the NFL have conditioned him to the pace of play at this level.
But his case for the job hasn’t been as convincing on the field.
Orlovsky has thrown a pick-six in each of the Lions’ first two preseason games, eliciting mid-season boos from the crowd at Ford Field on Thursday night. He has otherwise been solid, but those two gaffes seem to have opened to the door for Rudock.
The University of Michigan product hasn’t exactly stormed onto the scene, but he’s been steadier than Orlovsky. Their preseason numbers are below:READ MORE: Ascension St. John Children's Hospital, Wayne Pediatrics Join Forces To Strengthen Pediatric Services For Metro Detroit Families
Rudock: 16/22 (72.7 percent), 162 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Orlovsky: 24/39 (61.5 percent), 247 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Asked where Orlovsky stands after his two early blunders, Caldwell responded in typically vague fashion.
“We evaluate everybody for the length of time that they’re with us from the spring to now, and we continue to do so. A couple bad plays doesn’t necessarily affect it. There were a number of plays that were played in that ball game. A couple bad plays, certainly you look at all those things, you weigh them in as part of the evaluation process,” he said.
In a way, his noncommittal answer was revealing. The Lions likely didn’t anticipate being in this situation, but it certainly sounds like the back-up job is up for grabs. And in determining who wins it, Caldwell is looking for one thing and one thing only.
“The best player, period,” he said. “Coaches don’t have anything beyond, talking about future. We talk about now, that’s what we’re more interested in.”
So the Lions won’t simply give the job to Rudock thinking it may benefit them down the line. To beat out Orlovsky, Rudock will have to outperform him in the final two weeks of preseason.
Even then, the Lions may opt to keep three quarterbacks.MORE NEWS: Eastern Michigan Gets $1 Million Donation For Math, Automotive Programs From Jack Roush
“We kind of let it play out and don’t try to orchestrate it, and see what happens,” Caldwell said.