As of now, training camp is scheduled to be just two weeks away. Whether it stays that way remains to be seen, but even with the pandemic threatening football this year, it’s hard not to get at least a little excited about the potential start of training camp.
And so our coverage is going to continue as normal until otherwise noted. So today—just 15 days before training camp is due to start—we kick off our Detroit Lions 2020 training camp preview. As always, we start with the quarterbacks.
Roster locks: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel
On the bubble: David Blough
Key departures: Jeff Driskel
The backup job
The Lions went out this offseason and sought to get a clear backup to Matthew Stafford after a 2019 season that saw Detroit shuffle through backup after backup—remember Josh Johnson, David Fales, Luis Perez, Tom Savage, and Chad Kanoff? Instead of settling on David Blough or Jeff Driskel, who both performed admirably on short notice when Matthew Stafford was injured, they opted to shell out over $4 million a year for veteran journeyman Chase Daniel.
While Daniel doesn’t have experience in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense, he’s been around long enough to be familiar with most offensive concepts. His contract virtually guarantees he’ll be the backup this year—with a cap hit of $2 million which would only increase if the Lions decided to cut him.
2 or 3?
When it comes to roster building, the only true question at quarterback is whether Detroit decides to keep David Blough around as part of the 53-man roster or if they try to stash him on the practice squad in 2020. The Lions liked Blough enough last year to both trade for him and keep him on the active roster for the entirety of the 2019 season. While they likely didn’t plan on actually playing him that year, injuries forced him into the lineup. He responded with a promising start against the Bears on Thanksgiving, but overall, it was clear he was not ready for the big leagues quite yet. He finished with a completion percentage of just 54 percent, 5.7 yards per attempt, and a passer rating of only 64.0.
In 2018, with a clear backup in Matt Cassel, the Lions opted to just keep two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. Last year, with no clear No. 2, the Lions ran with three. But if the Lions really like Blough as a long-term project, they may not be willing to risk losing him on the waiver wire.
The real question at quarterback is simply whether Matthew Stafford can produce at the same rate he did in 2019. Stafford was one of the best deep-ball quarterbacks in the league last year, and had he played an entire season, he could have received some legitimate MVP attention.
After eight games, Stafford ranked fifth in passer rating (106.0), second in passing touchdowns (19), fourth in yards per attempt (8.6) and fourth in passing yards (2,499—first among quarterbacks that had played only eight games).
But can Stafford keep that kind of production for a full season—and more importantly, can he stay healthy for an entire 16 games? While Stafford hadn’t missed a game in eight seasons prior to last year’s back injury, he has consistently dealt with a somewhat serious injury in the back half of almost every season, whether it be a back injury or a hand injury. Stafford’s toughness shouldn’t ever be questioned, but his body has certainly not held up in December as of late.
Still, locally and nationally, people are paying attention to how well Stafford played last year, and some are predicting big things for 2020. With a returning cast of receivers, plus a few additional weapons to boot, it’s easy to see how this upcoming season could be one of Stafford’s best.
Stafford’s the starter. Daniel is the backup. Blough goes to the practice squad.