Detroit Lions backup quarterback situation affords little optimism
The Detroit Lions have failed to secure a quality backup for quarterback Matthew Stafford, betting the season on the 10-year veteran’s continued health.
Only a handful of NFL franchises feel confident that their team can post a winning record without their starting quarterback under center. The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles were the rare example of how a backup can not only save your season but lead your team to the promised land. Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, there isn’t a Nick Foles available.
This offseason, the Lions added journeyman quarterbacks Tom Savage and David Fales as free agents. Both possessed minimal starting experience but certainly garnered more than Detroit’s previous backup, Jake Rudock, a 2016 sixth-round selection. Although 14-year veteran Matt Cassel did get the nod over Rudock last year.
Despite drafting nine players in the 2019 NFL Draft, not one of them was a quarterback. Which, in hindsight, was a missed opportunity.
During the preseason, Savage suffered a concussion against the New England Patriots and did not return to practice until this week. Due to his absence, the Lions went out and signed veteran passer Josh Johnson.
After three preseason appearances, the Lions had seen enough from Fales and released him. Prior to their preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns Thursday, Detroit signed former AAF quarterback Luis Perez as a possible practice squad candidate.
This all set up a battle between Savage and Johnson on Thursday night to see if either could emerge as the favorite to win the primary backup position in Detroit. The answer seems pretty clear-cut but is likely not as simple. Savage looked lost behind the Lions’ makeshift offensive line, completing just 5 of his 9 passes for 33 yards. He was sacked three times.
The more mobile Johnson found success where Savage couldn’t. The 33-year old threw for 157 yards and a score completing 60 percent of his passes. Johnson ran for a rushing touchdown as well.
Despite only joining the team 19-days prior, Johnson seemed to have a much better feel for the offense. Still, some insiders are predicting Savage wins the primary backup role regardless due to his experience in the system. If so, his performance on Thursday night affords fans little hope that the Lions can win ballgames without starter Matthew Stafford under center.
The fact is neither Tom Savage or Josh Johnson should inspire much confidence. There is a chance the Detroit Lions could find a more suitable backup in free agency or on the waiver wire this weekend. But it appears the Lions will once again hang their season on the hopes their veteran starting quarterback, who is entering his 11th year in the NFL, is able to play all 16 regular-season games for the ninth-season in a row.