clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Where did David Fales come from?

New, comments

The Lions fourth quarterback in camp picked apart the Texans defense with ease, but that performance seemed to come out of nowhere.

Detroit Lions v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Both 2018 backup quarterback Matt Cassel and former 2016 sixth-round pick Jake Rudock, who spent training camp with the Lions, found themselves out of Detroit to start the 2019 offseason. The team, instead, brought in former Houston Texans spot starter Tom Savage and local product Connor Cook to back up Matthew Stafford. Cook wouldn’t last very long before the team signed David Fales. Fales would start training camp as the team’s third quarterback, and while he technically had a chance to fight for the QB2 spot, it was apparent early on that this was no battle he could win.

Tom Savage had familiarity with quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan. He was given every second team rep in training camp, took all snaps from the second-team center, and commanded the offense with authority. He showed an accuracy that he wasn’t known for, neither in Houston nor in college at Pitt. Meanwhile, David Fales played with third team alone. Scraping together reps when he could get them but struggling in nearly every way.

When asked to throw open his receivers, by anticipating their route and throwing to where the receiver will be instead of waiting until the receiver gets open, David Fales would hold onto the ball too long. Protected by his red jersey, he was not actually sacked during team drills, but it seemed every play we saw a defender getting free to get their hands on him either before or just as he was able to release the football.

Issues persisted even when throwing against air with no pass rush. One one occasion early in camp, Fales attempted a throw to a pass to Kenny Golladay on a simple corner route and overthrew his big target by about 15 feet. This wasn’t his first miss of the day, and clearly frustrated Fales threw his helmet to the turf and muttered to himself. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but when I was asked later how the staff handled it (whether they got on him or let him do his thing), I noted that the staff did nothing.

Later, it struck me as strange that the coaching staff simply let this young, struggling player make mistakes and offer no guidance. Sure, he was likely getting worked with at other times—it’s not like I’m implying he had been completely ignored by the staff—but this was a very teachable moment that the staff simply let pass by. If Fales was meant to be a developmental player, the team wasn’t doing very much to develop him.

A few practices later, Fales received one-on-one training on those same sort of deep throws. I couldn’t tell at the time if it was QB coach Sean Ryan with him, though that would make the most sense. The tight ends ran route after route and Fales would throw, closer and closer with every target until it was almost automatic. Later, in team drills, he would continue that level of accuracy, putting up his best day of training camp that we had seen so far.

Moving forward a little more to the first week of the preseason, Tom Savage started against the Patriots but wouldn’t last very long before going down with a concussion. David Fales took his place under center, but it wasn’t pretty at all. He would struggle to connect with his receivers, constantly facing pressure from a porous offensive line that nearly allowed double digit sacks. It was a bloodbath, and while Fales took those hits like a champ, he failed to elevate his offense to the challenge.

It certainly didn’t inspire confidence, so the Lions signed Josh Johnson during the week, becoming the veteran’s 12th NFL team. Johnson impressed throughout the week, but when he faced off against the Houston Texans it wasn’t as strong of a performance.

Once again, David Fales would take the field.

He would complete 12 of his 19 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. That’s good for a 121.8 passer rating, and it was a performance that practically no one saw coming... until you look a little closer. His first completion was a beautiful deep pass to Travis Fulgham for 35 yards, the same type of play he had worked on in camp after struggling with it. Next was a 48-yard pass to Andy Jones and shortly thereafter a short pass to Zach Zenner for the Lions’ first offensive touchdown of the preseason. A couple drives later he would connect on a 21-yard strike to Brandon Powell before a short pass to Deontez Alexander came up just short of another touchdown.

Fales would finish the game with yet another deep pass, this one a 28 yarder to Jonathan Duhart, before on target passes were dropped by Austin Traylor and Isaac Nauta to end the game. Imagine that.

For a decade, the Detroit Lions have relied on backups that were brought in just to backup Matthew Stafford. Jake Rudock, Brad Kaaya—those aren’t the type of guys you bring in to develop into guys who can win you games, but just guys who might not lose them for you. The same can be said of the various veteran backups that Matthew Stafford has had over the years.

In 2019, the Detroit Lions brought in David Fales, a guy that many wrote off even before his largely disastrous training camp. When their QB2 went down with injury, the team brought in a different QB2 rather than showing faith in Fales. And yet, we had the good fortune to see a quarterback with many flaws, some more obvious than others, but one that was so pronounced that when he screwed up at throwing deep in camp and got frustrated, nobody even came over to give him a pat on the back, a word of encouragement. Yet when that flaw was worked on, he would go from being unable to complete deep passes to a 1,000-yard receiver covered by air to throwing nearly perfect passes of 20 yards or more to four different receivers.

It’s incredible what a little time and attention can do.