Over the next few months, as things start to become clearer before training camp, The staff here at SideLion Report will begin previewing position by position how this team should line up on the opening game of the regular season. Starting with the easiest to gauge first, we take a look at the quarterback position.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has a group of guys to work with that are probably the best core of arms the Lions have seen in quite some time. During the off-season, the team felt that filling the void at backup. After Jon Kitna was traded to Dallas, The Lions have been looking for someone that can come in and support their young starter. Daunte Culpepper was given the opportunity to be that guy last year, but his time on the field was more than lackluster. A former Linehan quarterback for the Vikings, Culpepper had more than a chance to prove himself as the backup to Matthew Stafford.
Now another former Viking under Linehan’s guidance will be given that chance.
Shaun Hill, who was acquired for a seventh round draft choice, brings a veteran presence to the unit, as well as solid starting experience in the NFL. You can almost guarantee that he will be more productive than Culpepper was in a Lions uniform, and he comes to the squad a heck of a lot cheaper.
Wrapping up the quarterback club in 2010 will be forth-year Lion Drew Stanton. The former sparty is still considered by many to be the “project” quarterback on this staff, but he will get ample chances to win the backup job this summer. Overall this group of quarterbacks is one of the better tandems we have seen in quite some time, and is unlikely to change before the season starts. Jim Schwartz plans on only carrying these three through camp, so it seems this is the most solidified position on the team.
Matthew Stafford, Starter- The Man. The Myth. The Legend. There is no doubt that Stafford is etched in the Lions plans for quite some time. As a rookie, the Georgia cannon showed guts and glory on the field. It might have only been the second win of the season for some fans, but his showing on the field after being taken out of the ball game was one of the most spectacular showings of character the NFL saw, let a lone a franchise that has been short of character players the last few seasons. Here’s a kid with all of the talent in the world.
In his second professional season, it’s all about flashing that talent at the right moments.
A lot of pressure will be put on the young kid, and rightfully so. The inevitable second year is upon our starting quarterback. It’s almost a make or break. Does he make a few less mistakes and keep the Lions in the ballgame? Does his character on the field finally match the output on it?
Sure he is going to make mistakes. It’s in his football personality. He takes chances, airs the ball out there and hopes his receivers help him make plays. Now that he has two 6’5″ tight ends, arguably the most talented receiver in the game, and a solid secondary receiver in Nate Burleson, things will be more than expected from him.
Lions fans, I still believe we have the real gem here. The Lions made the right decision when they went after this kid with the first pick. He is still going to struggle at times, but he has all the intangibles, weapons and the perfect attitude for the gig. Detroit fans should be pumped for another winter with Stafford under center.
Stats- TDS 13 INT 20 YDS 2,267 RTG 61.0
Shaun Hill, Backup- When the Lions traded Kevin O’Connell to the Jets for a seventh round pick, nobody expected to retrieve a player that could contribute immediately with the seventh pick that was dealt to Detroit in exchange for the quarterback. When the Lions used that pick though to acquire Shaun Hill, it became apparent that it was a deal well done.
Hill, who is a Linehan protege, started six games last year for the 49ers. Many thought that he had won the starting job away from Alex Smith after a successful 2008 campaign. Hill was named the starter at the beginning of the season, but he would lose his job to Smith by week 8.
Despite his struggles last season, Hill finally gives the Lions a true backup that will be a solid option if something were to happen to Stafford. He doesn’t have the biggest arm in the world, but he is good at checking down and gaining short yardage if need be. In 18 game with the 49ers, Hill threw for 3,490 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He went 10-6 as a starter, including an impressive 7-1 at home.
With his ties to Scott Linehan, you would think no matter how he performs in the preseason, that he will be the backup when the season starts. Finally, a man is in place that isn’t worried about snatching the last cheeseburger play on the field. Hill knows his place on this team and will be a good supplement to Matthew Stafford in many ways.
Stats (six games started)-TDS 5 INT 2 YDS 943 RTG 79.6
Drew Stanton, “The Project”- There were many Michigan sports fans that were very happy to see the Lions draft a former Spartan in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. Drew Stanton was a big armed local boy out of Okemos, who had solid fundamentals and a fast track to the starting quarterback position. Injuries, setbacks and poor performance on the field have put him on a quick one way ticket out of town if he doesn’t perform better when needed in 2010.
On the last year of his contract, Stanton will battle for the backup position in training camp, but if his numbers from last year are any indication, than he will remain the bench warmer the Lions desire.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for the kid. For goodness sake, this is a man that wanted to come back to the Lions, knowing he had no chance to play. Knowing that if he did, he will probably get destroyed by opposing defenses. At this point in his career, it’s either make or break. The game seems way too fast for him, but some guys don’t develop right away. To be fair, Stanton has never been given a fair chance to prove his case in this league.
But even if he doesn’t get that chance, he has to show constant improvement. He wont have to worry about his job in 2010, but if he doesn’t show anything promising this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he never gets a chance again in this league.
Stats (one game started)- TDS 0 INT 6 YDS 259 RTG 26.1
(Joe Dexter is the lead blogger at SideLion Report. For more commentary, make sure you follow SideLion Report 0n twitter.)