Position Preview: Who will be the third quarterback for the Detroit Lions?


There is no quarterback controversy in Detroit as the Lions will continue to rely on their former first overall pick Matthew Stafford to be their starter and leader of their offense. Stafford was plagued by injuries during his first two seasons, but has not missed a game during the last three years while compiling stats at a record pace.

Shaun Hill had been the backup for years and was considered one of the most reliable reserves in the NFL. After only throwing 16 passes in the role for the Lions over the last three years though, Hill moved on to St Louis to serve as the backup for the Rams. The Lions signed Dan Orlovsky to take his spot. For most Lions fans, Orlovsky only conjures up bad memories as he was part of the infamous 0-16 team of 2008. Orlovsky was 0-7 in his starts that season, including the regrettable game against the Minnesota Vikings that featured the deciding points being scored when Orlovsky stepped out of the back of the endzone. He also was part of the Indianapolis Colts team that lost Jim Caldwell his last head coaching job. After Peyton Manning had his season ending neck surgery, that Colts team had a miserable 2-14 record, but Orlovsky did manage to start the two wins they managed that season. Basically, the Lions had better hope that the offensive line is able to keep Stafford upright and healthy this year or it’s likely to be yet another miserable season in Detroit.

The third string job is a bit more up in the air. The last few seasons the Lions have carried former Boise State star Kellen Moore as their third string quarterback. While Moore looked good enough during the preseason to keep the job each year, neither the former coaching staff nor the current one seemed pleased with his overall arm strength and abilities. The buzz out of the early camp sessions is about undrafted free agent James Franklin out of Missouri. Moore is a straight pocket passer, while Franklin showed himself as a more mobile athlete. Franklin’s 40 time was an undazzling 4.94, but his performance showed his elusive ability in college and the Lions may choose him if only for the ability to use him as a scout team quarterback when they have to prepare for fleet footed opponents. The Lions also have Jonathon Jennings from Saginaw Valley in to compete, but he’s not likely to make waves. Both Franklin and Jennings performed primarily from the shotgun position during college and would have a big learning curve to complete to take the job from Moore, but it appears that Franklin has been impressive and has a very good shot at taking over the position, however irrelevant it is when it comes to actual game time probability.

The cold hard fact is that if Stafford is injured or falters, this Lions team is going nowhere. Stafford has put up the numbers and been healthy enough for the Lions to rely on him this heavily. Now he just has to take them to the playoffs, and win there.

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  • George Johnson

    I think most everyone is underestimating Kellen Moore which is par for the course. I think Kellen Moore will compete for the second string QB position and will likely earn it if he has improved his arm strength some. PS. I am not Boise State fan but a Kellen Moore fan since he was a sophomore in high school.

  • Herm Nelson

    Kellen Moore not only has a legitimate shot at leapfrogging Dan Orlovsky for the number two spot, he can win games for the Lions as a regular season starter if need be. If you watched him last preseason, he gets it done in the NFL the same way he always has, with great anticipation and accuracy. John Gruden called him a football wizard. As always, Kellen Moore is not big enough, he is not fast enough, his arm is not strong enough, all he does is win.

    • Jeremy Mackinder

      I like your passion Herm Nelson, but I really don’t even expect Moore to make the team. Preseason does not translate the same as regular season play. It’s almost unwatchable honestly. I hope you’re right, but he’ll never receive that opportunity in Detroit and will be hard pressed to find it if and when he moves on.

      • mike m

        Moore did lead all QB in qb rating two years in a row during preseason.

        • George Johnson

          I would be surprised if K. Moore lead all Lions QBs in qb ratings his first year.

      • George Johnson

        I expect Moore to make the team. I think he may be the 2nd string QB as I said. I also think it is hard for a team to not keep a third QB if K Moore becomes the 3rd string QB. Keeping Franklin other than on the practice squad will not make sense for a third string QB, as he is not ready yet to play. The minute the first string or second string QB cannot play, then the third string QB has to be ready, know all the plays and be capable of being productive in season games. Franklin won’t be there this year.

      • Herm Nelson

        Obviously Moore’s long term future is as a coach, probably at the college level. But in the meantime I believe he will be able to hang around the NFL as a capable backup QB for quite a few years. Interestingly enough, even though he will never scare an NFL defense with his running ability his 40 time is faster than Franklin’s. Schwartz and the Lions did him a huge favor by retaining him for 2 years, he needed the time to develop but if you know his character you know he did not let any of that time go to waste. Whether he sticks with the Lions or moves on, I think a lot of teams would be smart to hire him as their #2 QB. In Webster’s dictionary under the word “overachiever”, there is a picture of Kellen Moore.

  • bob d

    get rid of Orslovsky and put franklin on the practice squad. Carry 2 QB’s and bring in Franklin if both go down. Hey, how aqbout looking to the future for once! Give Kellen a chance at backup and cut him if he doesn’t perform.

    • Herm Nelson

      This is the reason for watching preseason ball. The coaches have a short time to evaluate every player in camp and make decisions on cutting almost half of them. The author of this article Jeremy Mackinder made the comment above that he finds the preseason action almost unwatchable. I disagree. The quality of play is obviously below the regular season standard, but that is not the point. The point is we get to see these guys who were all heroes at the college level trying to improve and break through. Who can move up and whose dreams will be dashed? We see what the coaches see, and then they have to call the guys in to the office on Monday and tell them it is not going to happen for them with that team. That is what preseason is about.