Detroit Lions: Jake Rudock is ready for his new role as backup quarterback

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 13: Jake Rudock #14 of the Detroit Lions looks to pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the first half of a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 13, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 13: Jake Rudock #14 of the Detroit Lions looks to pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the first half of a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 13, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Matthew Stafford has been Detroit’s franchise player for a while. But if he were to get injured this year, Jake Rudock is capable of filling his shoes.

It is clear that in 2017, the Detroit Lions are quarterback Matthew Stafford’s team. He’s this team’s veteran captain, best player, and spiritual leader, all rolled into one. He’s been the cornerstone of this franchise for more than half a decade, and his quality play can lead the Lions back to the postseason

But what if Stafford were to go down with an injury and have to miss significant time? It’s a scenario that no one wants to think about, but it’s a reality that many fanbases have to deal with in this injury-riddled league. Stafford is considered a very durable quarterback, as he hasn’t missed a game since 2010, but Lions fans have learned to be prepared for the worst case scenario.

If this doomsday scenario were to take place, the Lions would need a formidable backup quarterback, who can manage the game, and keep the team afloat while Stafford recovers. That’s where second year quarterback Jake Rudock can step in. His progression from his first season to now has been impressive, and he is more than capable of filling in for Stafford if he were to go down.

After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, Rudock had a decent first preseason. In his four outings, he threw for 333 yards, completing 30 of his 51 throws. He also threw for four touchdowns, only one interception, and rushed for an additional 62 yards. Despite these good numbers, Rudock did not make the 53-man roster and the Lions placed him on waivers, with the hope of resigning him to the practice squad.

Putting Rudock on waivers last year was a clear risk, as any team could have signed him. The Lions clearly saw potential in this young gunslinger, and they had to be thrilled when he cleared waivers and made it to the Lions’ practice squad.  This move ended up being wise for Detroit, as it allowed Rudock time to progress as an NFL quarterback without having to use a roster spot on an inexperienced signal caller .

Rudock spent the 2016 season simply getting better as a passer. He “bulked up”, and “added a little zip” onto his passes while running the scout team offense on the practice squad.

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Head coach Jim Caldwell took notice, saying that Rudock has gotten “physically stronger” and is “throwing the ball better than before”. With the quarterback moving from third string to second string, Caldwell anticipates to “see a nice, gradual improvement”.

Early returns suggest his improvement may be more than gradual.  The organization had enough faith in this Michigan alum that they allowed former backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky to leave as a free agent, and elevated Rudock to second string.

Rudock rewarded the Lions faith in him with a dominant performance in last weekend’s 24-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts. He completed 61.9% of his 21 throws, and threw for two touchdowns, both going to rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Rudock looked really confident in the game, throwing accurately and using his improved pocket awareness to scramble for an additional 24 yards.

The young quarterback looked to be in control of the game when he was in, and was the most dominant quarterback in the game. Caldwell again spoke highly of the second year man after the game, saying he has a “better grasp of things around him” while in the pocket and mentioned that he can “see the difference (in Rudock’s play) last year at this time and this year”.

Rudock had another solid outing in Saturday’s 16-6 win over the New York Jets. He again completed 61% of his 13 passes for 84 yards and continued to show improved pocket awareness with a nice little 11 yard scramble.

The back-up passer did have one interception in the third quarter, but that appeared to be a small miscommunication with running back Dwayne Washington. Mistakes like that are what the preseason is designed to fix, as Rudock can very easily improve upon this in the next week of practice.

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After a long rookie year full of hard work, Jake Rudock has made leaps and bounds running the offense. He looks stronger, throws the ball better, and looks like a more confident leader in the pocket. God forbid starter Matthew Stafford goes down at any point this year, but if he does, at least it is known that this franchise can survive with Rudock at the helm.