The pairing of Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock has been underwhelming for the Lions. They have dinked and dunked their way down the field and while it’s a viable strategy during the preseason, it rarely correlates to success against regular season starters. They pose no deep threat, which limits the threat of players like Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay.
As highlighted in Kent Lee Platte’s article regarding backup quarterbacks, there is more to them than just on-field performance. Knowing the playbook and helping break down tape is an extremely important facet of being a backup, and that is where a veteran like Cassel can shine.
It’s pretty clear that if Matthew Stafford gets hurt, the Lions will be in significant trouble. However, if they want to add some much-needed arm talent behind him, there will be plenty of options when teams cut their rosters down to 53 players.
Pittsburgh has a logjam at quarterback, and Dobbs might be the odd man out. Ben Roethlisberger is penciled in as the starter, of course, with Mason Rudolph on deck as a rookie third rounder. Landry Jones, meanwhile, will likely make the team based on experience alone. Unless the Steelers opt for a fourth quarterbacks, the 2017 fourth-round pick will be cut as a result.
A name on the waiver wire to keep an eye out for is Josh Dobbs. The Lions had interest in him last draft, and he might get cut if the Steelers opt to go with Jones and Rudolph. pic.twitter.com/rqm0HOluos— John Whiticar (@Wrath_of_John) August 27, 2018
Dobbs has an elite athletic profile, showcasing excellent mobility inside and outside of the pocket. Unlike Cassel and Rudock, he can throw a good deep ball. His biggest weakness is decision making, which has led to some poor interceptions during preseason action. Vision comes with experience, but he is not ready to step in as a starter.
Dobbs would be a better young quarterback to groom than Rudock. Also, he majored in aerospace engineering at Tennessee. Who wouldn’t love to see an aerospace engineer get coached by Matt Patricia, an aerospace engineer?
Another name to keep an eye out for is Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush. A 2017 undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, Rush’s best asset is his brain. Kent Lee Platte spoke praise of him before the draft:
Cooper Rush may become the best backup QB in the NFL, will almost certainly become a coach at some point. Elite mind for football. https://t.co/XEfEPPRIUr— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 2, 2017
However, Rush’s on-the-field performance has been lacking. Through three 2018 preseason games, Rush is 32-for-49 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, one of which was a Patrick Peterson pick-six. Rush is still young, but he needs to improve as a passer if he wants a chance at a backup gig. The Lions already have two high accuracy, low yardage quarterbacks in Cassel and Rudock. Is Rush’s great football IQ worth cutting them? In the end, you need a quarterback, not a quarterbacks coach.
Jeff Driskel / Matt Barkley
There is a heated battle for the QB2 spot in Cincinnati. At one point in their college careers, Barkley and Driskel were stars in the making. Barkley was the top quarterback heading into the 2012 season, but a poor year at USC coupled with an injury dropped him into the fourth round. Driskel, meanwhile, never lived up to the five-star billing he received out of high school; he bounced from Florida to Louisiana Tech en route to being selected by the 49ers in the sixth round of the 2016 draft.
Driskel has been playing well this preseason, and appears to be the front-runner to be Andy Dalton’s backup. Through three games, Driskel has gone 24-for-38 for 332 yards with one touchdown and one interception and appears more decisive with his passes, a problem that plagued him throughout college. Barkley, meanwhile, has thrown for 17-for-33 for 230 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, he brings actual game experience, unlike Driskel.
Neither quarterbacks have lived up to their potential, and while they are unlikely to achieve a starting gig, they might be able to develop into serviceable backups.
A Chiefs fifth-round pick in 2016, Hogan was let go before his rookie season even started. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), the Cleveland Browns were eager to pick him up. Over the next two seasons, Hogan would manage a few starts, with mixed results. One could argue that he was the best quarterback on the 0-16 Browns, but that’s more of an indictment of how bad the Browns were.
Traded to the Redskins this offseason, Hogan is competing with Colt McCoy for the backup position. Much like his tenure with the Browns, his play has been up and down. In the first two preseason games, the offense stalled under Hogan. In the third game, however, he played much better, going 7-for-9 for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
McCoy seems to have a firm grasp on the backup spot, and it seems likely that the Redskins will opt to go with two quarterbacks, along with Alex Smith.
The Saints traded for Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps as an heir to Drew Brees. Suddenly, Tom Savage, J.T. Barrett, and Taysom Hill aren’t fighting for the backup position — they’re fighting for a roster spot.
While I could discuss Savage, who has starting experience with the Texans, or Barrett, with whom Michigan and Michigan State fans are familiar with, Taysom Hill is an interesting story.
Firstly, he is an elite athlete, much like Dobbs (Hill’s score is actually just above his). Hill’s speed is his best asset, and the Lions have not had a mobile quarterback (and I mean REALLY mobile) in awhile.
With the Saints acquiring Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback Taysom Hill might get cut. An elite athlete (look at those nines!), Hill also brings another skill to the table: special teams. pic.twitter.com/OzlXXeA9TJ— John Whiticar (@Wrath_of_John) August 29, 2018
Unfortunately, consistency has plagued Hill. He has alternated between electric plays and duds. In Games 1 and 3 of the preseason, he collectively went 15-for-17 for 138 yards with one passing touchdown, coupled with 87 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. In Game 2, he went 11-for-15 for 68 yards, as well as rushing for 43 yards. However, he struggled with turnovers; he recorded two interceptions and had three fumbles (losing two).
What separates Hill from most other quarterbacks is his special teams ability. Whether he’s making a tackle down the field, a fake punt, or scaring a punter into dropping the ball, Hill’s speed is an asset. With the injury to Steve Longa and departure of Don Carey, the Lions could use an impact player on special teams.
The biggest problem is that the Saints might not cut him at all. While Brees and Bridgewater are locks atop the depth chart, Hill might move to a full-time special teams role. As mentioned, he is a dangerous and dynamic weapon; perhaps the Saints have a few more trick plays up their sleeves?
Robert Griffin III
RG3’s days as a starter are likely over, but he can still be an above-average backup with scrambling ability. With Joe Flacco as the starter (for now) and rookie Lamar Jackson waiting in the wings, Griffin faces an uphill battle to secure the QB3 spot; in the past, the Ravens have kept only two quarterbacks.
Griffin has performed well this preseason, completing 27-of-41 passes for 243 yards, along with two touchdowns and one interception; surprisingly, his rushing had been subdued up until the fourth game, where he ran for 41 yards.
While Griffin and Jackson share similar skill sets, making it logical to keep both, the question remains whether a third quarterback is more valuable than, say, an additional linebacker or lineman.
Acquiring a solid backup quarterback on cutdown day is next to impossible; most teams have trouble acquiring two decent quarterbacks, and some even struggle to find one.
Of the listed quarterbacks, Dobbs is my top choice. He has youth, athleticism, and already has some good traits to build upon as a passer. Also, the Lions had interest in Dobbs during the pre-draft process. The Steelers selected him in the fourth round, while the Lions selected Brad Kaaya in the sixth. Given his availability, it is likely that Bob Quinn would have renewed interest.