With Matthew Stafford out because of a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday's season-opening loss at Chicago, Shaun Hill will play Sunday when the Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field. (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News)
Allen Park -- He's a "wily veteran." And he's a "football-playin' dude."
But whatever he is, we'll find out sooner than anyone intended whether Shaun Hill is still a winning quarterback as an NFL starter.
Because with Matthew Stafford out because of a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday's season-opening loss at Chicago, that's the role Hill will be asked to play Sunday when the Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field.
Stafford's down, though not technically out yet. So Hill's moving up the depth chart in relief, a reality the Lions weren't ready to officially announce Monday, even amid reports Stafford could miss a month or more.
"We have a lot of confidence in Shaun," coach Jim Schwartz said at his weekly news conference, adding that the mid-March trade with San Francisco that brought Hill to Detroit "was one of our biggest offseason acquisitions."
Whether that's true, we're about to find out. The Lions haven't had a backup quarterback win for them as a fill-in starter since 2005, when Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia took turns doing it. But they're going to need one now if they're going to keep this season from beginning an all-too-familiar spiral.
And Sunday, Hill will get another chance to do what he did in San Francisco, where he went 10-6 as a starter the last three years, with most of that success coming as an elevated backup in 2007 and '08.
"Obviously, my job is to step in and pick up where (Stafford) left off," Hill said Sunday, after a shaky debut (9-of-19, 88 yards, one interception) in the second half of the 19-14 loss at Soldier Field. "That's the job of the backup and I feel like I'm very qualified for that."
The Lions certainly agree.
That's why they dealt a seventh-round pick to the 49ers six months ago to snag the 30-year-old Hill before he hit the open market. And it's why they opted this summer to extend his expiring contract through 2011. He knows coordinator Scott Linehan's system well after spending his first four NFL seasons playing in it in Minnesota, and he has his teammates' trust.
"Shaun's a wily veteran," said receiver Calvin Johnson, "and he knows what to do."
Added linebacker Julian Peterson: "We'll feel confident with Shaun coming in this week and running the offense the way it's supposed to run."
Effective, if not pretty
Just don't expect it to look quite the same, though, because Stafford and Hill aren't cut from the same mold. That's why one was the No. 1 overall pick who signed a $72 million contract and started from Day 1, while the other went undrafted and didn't take a snap until he got to take a knee at the end of his fourth NFL season.
"Shaun's a football-playin' dude," Schwartz said. "He doesn't always look pretty. But he knows where to go with the football, he's been very productive, he's got a lot of experience, he's very smart and he understands not only our offense but opponents' defenses.
"And like he said, he's a football-playin' dude. He has a good feel for the game. He just knows how to go out there and play."
Sunday, he'll get another chance to do just that.
"I'm very comfortable," Hill said. "It's my job to be ready, no matter what. And I feel like that's been my M.O. my whole career."
Schwartz stuck to his modus operandi Monday -- he wasn't about to offer many details about Stafford's injury status. All he'd say was that Stafford was "very sore" and that the team did get some good news from the MRI results in that "it doesn't look like surgery is going to be needed."
So, at the very least, it would appear his season's not over. Still, if it's a second-degree sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, as multiple reports have indicated, then it seems likely he won't be back playing until October.
"We don't want to rush him back," Schwartz acknowledged. "We don't want to put him out there if he's not able to make all the throws."
Instead, they'll put Hill out there. And understandably, the fans are wondering whether he can make enough of the throws after Sunday's showing.
Offense needs a spark
The Lions' offense wasn't exactly clicking with Stafford under center in the first half. But when Hill came in to start the third quarter, the offense went from bad to worse. His first seven possessions produced five punts, an interception, a fumble and only one first down.
But to be fair, all but one of those drives began inside the Lions' own 22-yard line, and four began backed up inside the 15. That and the fact the Lions, who couldn't muster any semblance of a running game against the Bears, were trying to protect a lead made for some too-conservative play-calling.
And as Schwartz was quick to point out Monday, but for the infamous non-catch by Calvin Johnson in the final minute, Hill might've been hailed as the hero who rescued the Lions with a six-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to end a 20-game road losing streak.
"That was a heck of a drive," Schwartz said. "If that ball's complete right there, the Shaun Hill 2-minute drive at the end of that game is a story that would've been easy to write."
Easier said than done, obviously. But Hill will get a chance to write another Sunday, from start to finish.
Getting to know ...
Age: 30 (Jan. 9, 1980)
Height/weight: 6-3, 220
NFL experience: Vikings (2002-05), 49ers (2006-09), Lions (2010)
Career record as starter: 10-6 with 23 TDs, 11 INTs, 61.7 completion percentage
2009 as a starter: 3-3 with five TDs, two INTs, 56.1 completion percentage
Eagles at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
TV/radio: Fox (subject to blackout)/WXYT 97.1
Records: Eagles 0-1, Lions 0-1
Line: Eagles by 3
For his career, Shaun Hill is 331 for 541 passing (61 percent), with 23 ... (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News)
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