Usually, it’s not wise to pay much attention to a comparison a second string quarterback makes about a third string running back, but in the case of Dan Orlovsky and Theo Riddick, a few quotes were certainly eyebrow raising.
When speaking to the Ross Tucker Football Podcast by way of the Detroit Free Press’s Carlos Monarrez, Orlovsky said that Riddick is going to be Detroit’s version of Darren Sproles this season, the versitile running back and pass catcher for the Philadelphia Eagles that the New Orleans Saints used for years.
“I’m telling you, if he doesn’t have 50 catches this year, I’ll be surprised because he’s going to have opportunities and he’s very talented at it,” Orlovsky said. “I think he’s going to play that Sproles role, for sure.”
Because of Riddick’s size and versatile mentality and the fact Joe Lombardi, Detroit’s new offensive coordinator, came from New Orleans, the comparison seems fitting. Except, before Sproles was Sproles, he had to prove himself on the field. Riddick will face that same expectation this season. Just because he showed flashes as a rookie doesn’t mean he can immediately take the next step and be exactly who Sproles is.
“I think it’s even going to be easier when he gets pads on because once linebackers just try to start colliding him, and that’s what teams startes to do with Sproles sometimes, you hit the home run one out of every 10 plays. And then nine out of 10 times Sproles wins,” Orlovsky said.
As Monarrez aptly pointed out, the only other Lions to have 50 catches last season were Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. With Golden Tate and Eric Ebron now in the fold and Joseph Fauria, Brandon Pettigew and Jeremy Ross looking for action, it could be downright impossible for someone like Riddick to catch 50 passes or even be targeted half as much, especially in what figures to be an even more diversified offense under new leadership.
To do so, he will need to come out of the gate in a hurry and earn the trust of Matthew Stafford, Lombardi and company. Simply becuause a player looked good in OTA’s doesn’t mean much when the rubber meets the road. Riddick had a small role last season, and unless he takes leaps forward, it’s tough to imagine him mimicking Sproles so soon, especially considering it took Sproles until his third year in the league to come into his own. Prior to that, he only collected 255 yards and two touchdowns total air and ground between 2005 and 2007.
Such offseason statements like Orlovsky’s add pressure to players prematurely. Riddick should worry about being himself and improving. If he does that while keeping his nose to the grindstone, the catches and big plays will follow him. Then, the debate can begin about which player he might impersonate.
Until then, Orlovsky and everyone else should avoid the temptation to make comparisons as well as semi-outlandish claims about Riddick’s future production. Instead of being like Sproles, Riddick should shoot to be himself first and help the Lions’ offense any way he can whenever he’s asked.
Chances are, that’s exactly what he’s setting out to do.