Going into the second game of the preseason, the Detroit Lions have a number of camp battles heating up and it’s time stir up some separation with this week’s bold prediction of the week. Part of a season-long series, it will be exactly as the title indicates: one hot take every week about what will unfold on Sunday (or in this case, Friday). Let’s take a look at this week’s prediction.
Bold prediction of the week: Matt Cassel doesn’t play until the second half
Going into last season, the Detroit Lions were assumed to have one of the better quarterback situations in the league. Matthew Stafford was in his prime and continued to grow with veteran seasoning while sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock shined throughout the preseason, most notably when throwing to Kenny Golladay.
As fans learned when the Lions suffered a brutal Week 13 beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, that glamorous preseason likely had less to do with Rudock and more to do with Golladay. While Golladay had a flashy rookie season, Rudock put up an ugly showing when filling in for the injured Stafford in Week 13, looking unable to dictate the offense. He completed three of five passes for 24 yards and rarely looked beyond the line of scrimmage for passing outlets.
As a result, veteran journeyman and former New England Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel was brought in to compete with Rudock for the backup job. While neither has been particularly pleasant to watch, Rudock has struggled quite badly as of late and has continued his habit of not looking deep. Pride of Detroit’s Jeremy Reisman detailed a sequence from Wednesday’s joint practices with the Giants that just about summed up Rudock’s performances this preseason:
Toward the end of practice, both teams attempted to execute full one-minute drills... The Lions put Jake Rudock in with the starters and it did not go well.
First-and-10: Pressure coming, throws it at receiver’s feet.
Second-and-10: Deep ball into coverage, falls incompletely but gets a defensive pass interference call.
First-and-10: Eli Apple jumps in a front of the receiver after Rudock stares him down, and takes it for a pick-six.
Just like much of camp, both backup quarterback options are worrisome and a pain to watch. As Jeremy’s note at the end indicates, however, Cassel has been the lesser of two evils for the offense. For what it’s worth, it should be noted that Rudock’s pick-six came against the same Eli Apple who struggled mightily against the first team offense during day one of joint practices.
It’ll be important for Lions brass to make smart decisions when it comes time to trim the roster to 53 players. With the tradition of starters playing the first half of the third preseason game, there will only be six quarters left of football for backups to show their worth after Friday’s game.
Coaches should want to have the quarterback situation largely figured out by then so as to give other players a fair shot to make their case for the roster. That likely means Friday’s game will be used to ensure that what the coaches have seen through training camp so far is correct.
Once Stafford leaves the game—if he plays at all—Rudock will have what will likely be his last real shot to prove his worth. Between the time Stafford exits the game and the start of the second half, it’s Jake Rudock’s time to do or die.