In many ways, the 2015 offseason is a pivotal one for the Detroit Lions.
One way most won’t consider it pivotal is as it relates to who’s backing up quarterback Matthew Stafford. In 2014, Stafford did an excellent job staying upright and in the game. He hasn’t faced serious injury lately.
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But, as quarterbacking in the league goes, that might have been an uncommonly lucky run more than anything else. Within the past few years in the NFC North division alone, Detroit has watched Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Teddy Bridgewater get hobbled at various times during the season.
At some point, like it or not, Stafford is going to face another injury during his career. The mere nature of his position says so. Though it might not be of the long term variety, it certainly could cost the signal caller a few games, leaving Detroit in a definite short-term pinch.
In such a scenario, who would be the backup? Would they be capable of filling the void and perhaps leading Detroit to some key wins? Last season, the answer to that question was murky. Dan Orlovsky was the second in command, but when he saw time in the preseason, Orlovsky looked like a shell of his former self.
While we’re on that topic, let’s not pretend his former self was that great, either.
So that leaves the Lions in an interesting predicament, considering Orlovsky is a free agent in addition to third stringer Kellen Moore. Moore is a restricted free agent, and Detroit might wish to keep him in the fold. But do they trust Moore implicitly to act as the true backup?
That element is up in the air as well, but it might be the closer to the case. Detroit worked out former Clemson standout and second year man Tajh Boyd on Tuesday. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported the story, and analyzed the situation a bit.
"The Detroit Lions hosted Boyd for a private workout (Tuesday), and while he left without a contract, he performed well enough he could return as a backup to Matthew Stafford next season.The Lions enter this offseason with an unsettled backup quarterback situation.Dan Orlovsky, last season’s No. 2 quarterback, is an unrestricted free agent and it’s unclear if the Lions will bring him back. Kellen Moore, last year’s No. 3, is a restricted free agent who the Lions have made it known they’d like to retain.Last year, the team set out to find a young developmental quarterback, perhaps through the draft. That never materialized, but they could go that route again."
Certainly, in the case of a future Boyd signing, Moore would have a leg up thanks to years in the system and time alone, and would likely be considered the true backup.
At some point, though, whether it’s a combination of Boyd and Moore or someone else, the Lions have to figure out a way to combine a trustworthy veteran backup with developmental pieces. The team can’t afford to get caught with their pants down, so to speak, in the event Stafford should get dinged up and have to miss time. They have to be better prepared, much like they were with Shaun Hill in the fold.
[pullquote} The team can’t afford to get caught with their pants down, so to speak, in the event Stafford should get dinged up and have to miss time. They have to be better prepared, much like they were with Shaun Hill in the fold. [/pullquote]
Is Moore a quarterback capable of doing what Hill did? Nobody knows, because he’s rarely been given a shot to see meaningful playing time. If the team avoids a more battle-tested veteran and brings him back along with signing a player like Boyd, it would be a significant vote of confidence for him, and a sign that the team might not be pursuing a quarterback in the draft or free agency.
Something has to get settled this offseason. Lately, the Lions have been lucky that Stafford or anyone behind him hasn’t been forced to miss significant time.
That doesn’t change the fact that they need to make covering their bases for such events a bigger immediate priority, however.