When the Detroit Lions signed Matt Cassel this offseason, it looked like Jake Rudock’s job as the team’s backup quarterback could be in jeopardy. Cassel, after all, has a few key things that Rudock lacks. For one, he has plenty of NFL experience, starting 81 games to Rudock’s zero. But more importantly, Cassel has familiarity with Lions head coach Matt Patricia from his four seasons with the New England Patriots.
It’s that experience that drove general manager Bob Quinn to add competition to the backup job this year.
“Jake’s played in I think how many NFL games? One?” Quinn said back in April. “So, Jake’s good. I like Jake, but my job is to add competition across the roster”
With the pressure on, Rudock is going to need to show big improvements this offseason to prove his value as both a viable backup option and a valuable voice in the quarterback room.
If Thursday’s OTAs are any indication, Rudock is well on his way to earning that job. Not only was Rudock taking reps ahead of Cassel this week, but several beat writers present noted how good and comfortable Rudock was in the offense.
“Jake Rudock took all the second-team quarterback reps over Matt Cassel, and looked comfortable commanding the offense,” Kyle Meinke of MLive wrote. “That includes threading a touchdown pass to Jace Billingsley for one of the best plays of the day.”
Rudock improved quite a bit from Year 1 to Year 2. In his rookie year, the Lions limited the kind of throws in his repertoire during the preseason. “He’s been challenged—I think—overall by the breadth of the offense and what he’s required to do,” then head coach Jim Caldwell said of Rudock’s rookie offseason.
But last year, he looked like a different quarterback. His preseason completion percentage jumped from 58.8 his rookie season to an impressive 66.1 percent, as the Lions challenged him with more on his plate. Unfortunately, in Rudock’s one opportunity for real, game-time experience, he threw a pick-six on his very first possession.
Still, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the backup job at this point in the offseason. Justin Rogers of the Detroit News also noted his impressive performance on Thursday.
“Jake Rudock had the better day of the two quarterbacks vying to be Matthew Stafford’s backup,” Rogers wrote. “During a seven-on-seven drill, working from the 20-yard line, Rudock zipped in three consecutive touchdown passes to Jace Billingsley, Andy Jones and tight end Hakeem Valles.”
Making a good first impression with a new head coach is important, but Rudock will have to keep it up all offseason to stay above Cassel on the depth chart.