The Detroit Lions are set to kick off their 2022 training camp at the end of the month, so it’s time for us to begin our roster battle series again. In this series of articles, we will explore the competition for roles—starting, reserve, specialty—discuss who is involved, and project how we believe the Lions will approach each situation.
Our first installment in this series explores the backup quarterback position, exploring who is the favorite for the QB2 (primary backup) job and if the Lions will keep a third quarterback on the roster.
Setting the table
With Jared Goff firmly in place as Detroit’s starting quarterback in 2022, the Lions opted to bring back both backup quarterbacks, Tim Boyle and David Blough, on one-year contracts this offseason. With needs across the roster, the Lions decided to keep the band together at quarterback, while only investing $3.15 million in the two reserve roles.
In 2021, when Goff missed three games—two due to injury and one because of COVID protocols—it was Boyle who the Lions promoted to the starting role. Boyle struggled in each outing, finishing the season with 61 completions for 526 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. Despite Boyle’s struggles, Blough never saw the field, making the 2021 depth chart pecking order very clear:
- QB1: Goff
- QB2: Boyle
- QB3: Blough
Entering 2022, coaches continue to insist that the QB2 role is still an open competition and rotated the pair throughout the spring. After a minicamp practice where Blough shined and Boyle struggled, coach Dan Campbell was asked if the QB2 role was indeed back to being a true competition:
“(Blough) earned that right to take reps with the second group and he showed up and made some plays. But yet, we were still alternating them, and then you watch what Tim (Boyle) did yesterday—he rose to the challenge and he made his plays when they were to be made in crucial situations. So, listen, competition is a great thing. So, listen, I respect what both of them did this spring. That’s what I love about both of them. I know they are going out there to compete against each other.”
By the end of spring, a pattern had emerged amongst the reserve quarterbacks: whichever player worked with the second team typically had a solid day, while the player with the third team struggled to get anything going.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t provide much clarity for establishing a leader for the QB2 job, and with the rotation expected to continue through training camp, it does appear to be an open competition. This competition figures to be significant because whoever loses this battle could be in jeopardy of not making the roster.
Last season, the Lions elected to keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but that decision was likely made due to the league’s COVID restrictions, as opposed to it being an established pattern of preference for the coaching staff/front office.
With COVID protocols removed for the 2022 season, it’s unclear if the Lions would stick with three quarterbacks once again, or only keep two and open up a roster spot for depth at another position. If we look back at Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes’ past influences, we can see that opting for just two signal-callers is not out of the question.
Keeping in mind that Taysom Hill has been playing mostly at tight end for the Saints—only four starts at quarterback and all in 2020—and Brandon Allen was only on the active roster the first two weeks of 2018 before being released, both organizations mostly opted for just two quarterbacks over the past four seasons.
Now, Campbell and Holmes have proven they’re not afraid to carve their own paths, but at the same time, they’ve both seen how teams can operate with fewer bodies at the position.
Erik: Jeremy, in our 53-man post-OTA/minicamp projection, we both agreed that the Lions would keep three quarterbacks, but we struggled with a few of our final roster decisions and could have used an extra spot. Now that we’ve taken a step back and are relooking at the roster again, did we make the right decision to keep three in our projection, or have you changed your mind?
Jeremy: I’m starting to change my mind, honestly. Detroit’s roster is in a better place than it was a year ago, and with that comes tougher choices. If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, neither Blough nor Boyle look like a player capable of stepping in and winning games right now. Therefore it’s hard to justify keeping two inadequate backups. And as you pointed out above, based on the history of this coaching and front office staff, they won’t hesitate to keep two quarterbacks if that’s best for the roster.
Are you starting to slide that way too?
Erik: I am.
Jeremy: So which player are you leaning towards as the primary backup?
Erik: Based on the fact that they heavily favored Boyle last season, I think he’d enter camp as the favorite for the QB2 role, but splitting roles this spring definitely keeps me from being married to him for the job.
Do you see it differently?
Jeremy: I think that’s sound logic, but the pressure is really on Boyle this camp. I understand why Boyle was the backup last year—he had the highest ceiling with his arm talent. But now he has real experience under his belt, and if he doesn’t come into camp significantly better, I think Blough could be the pick simply because he’s a better presence in the quarterback room.
Erik: Makes sense to me.