The article is not meant to pile on Nate Sudfeld. The Detroit Lions quarterback didn’t have his best game in the preseason opener against the New York Giants, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some people are making it out to be. He certainly wasn’t helped out by a porous offensive line and at least three untimely drops from his receiving crew.
But at the same time, Friday was a pretty stark reminder that Detroit can do better at the backup position—and they are. The Lions officially announced the signing of veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Thursday, and his arrival on the practice field—expected this upcoming week—couldn’t come soon enough.
Bridgewater’s arrival helps out the Lions in numerous ways. For one, the Lions can rest a little easier knowing that if anything happens to Jared Goff, the season is not lost. Bridgewater has stepped in for starting quarterbacks several times over the past few years and held his own. He won five straight games in replacement of Drew Brees in 2019, he went 7-7 for the Broncos as their starter in 2021, and even though he went 0-2 for the Dolphins last year, he kept the team competitive in those games. Meanwhile, Sudfeld has never started an NFL game.
The Lions have high expectations this year, and they can’t afford to just give up games if Goff is out for any stretch of time. When any starting quarterback has been injured in recent Lions history, it’s been a disaster. Detroit went 0-3 without Jared Goff in 2021 and 0-8 without Matthew Stafford in 2019.
“We’re year three and I think we’re in a much better position and you want to know that you are in the best hands possible,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said of Bridgewater. “I’ll leave it at that, but that’s also – it’s the competition. It doesn’t mean that Nate’s out of anything if we (sign Bridgewater), if it works out. You’ll feel good about whoever comes out of the fire is going to be the right guy to help you along the way, but yeah, you don’t want the wheels to fall off.”
Friday’s game was also a reminder of just how little chemistry has developed between Sudfeld and wide receiver Jameson Williams. Despite repping together for all of camp, daily miscommunications have become the norm, and that was again on display in the preseason opener. Sudfeld went just 2-of-7 targeting Williams with two interceptions and an incompletion where the two were clearly not on the same page.
Obviously, it’s not fair to just put those all on Sudfeld—and there are a fair amount of signs that Williams’ development is not coming along like it should—but the good news is that Bridgewater’s addition should immediately benefit the second-year receiver, too. Campbell specifically pointed out how Bridgewater has been a humongous resource to young receivers in the past.
“That was something he did really good for us,” Campbell said. “He would come in the day before the game, and he would take those young receivers out, go through the whole game plan, tell them what they’re looking for. ‘Here is the coverage, here is what I’m thinking. How are you running this? No, I do not like that.’ He ran the scout teams, he was competitive, running cards. It was just awesome man. He’s that type of guy, an unbelievable teammate. He’s a pro. He’s a vet. He handles his business.”
Williams’ development is at a critical point right now. With a six-game suspension looming, these reps over the next two weeks are all he’s going to get with the team before the start of the season. If he’s just spinning his tires with Sudfeld—and it looks like that’s the case right now—Bridgewater’s help could be monumental.
That help also trickles down the Lions’ receiver depth chart. Detroit has a few promising young receivers fighting for a roster spot, including undrafted rookies Dylan Drummond and Chase Cota. Bridgewater’s tutelage should help those guys, but they should also be getting better looks in practice, too. Because for as good as his NFL debut was on Friday night, third (now fourth) string rookie quarterback Adrian Martinez has struggled immensely with accuracy in training camp. With Sudfeld and/or Bridgewater taking over third-team reps, it should help give more opportunities to those receivers repping late in practice.
Some of you may take umbrage with that analysis of Martinez, but Campbell made it pretty clear on Friday night that the competition in camp is at QB2 between Bridgewater and Sudfeld—not for QB3 between Sudfeld and Martinez.
“We’ll talk about it tomorrow but the plan right now would be Martinez is going to get a little bit less (playing time) because Teddy needs to start getting some, so you’re looking at Nate and Teddy right now. Adrian is the one who’s probably going to have to take a little bit of a backseat and not get as many reps.”
Bridgewater wasn’t available to the media after Friday’s game, but he is expected to talk on Monday.