Lions QB Rudock takes step in right direction

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Lions QB Jake Rudock warms up before the game against the Steelers Friday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Allen Park – Rookie quarterback Jake Rudock continues to give the Lions something to think about.

In his NFL debut, Rudock threw for 72 yards and a touchdown on 8-for-11 passing in the Lions’ 30-17 exhibition win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday.

Rudock, a sixth-round pick out of Michigan, also converted a two-point conversion – connecting with rookie receiver Quinshad Davis through a tight window on a quick slant – and showed his mobility with a 17-yard run.

Overall, Rudock was efficient as he played the entire second half and led the team to two scoring drives on four possessions.

“Definitely some good things out there,” Rudock said following Saturday’s short practice. “Obviously there's always room for improvement, always things to improve upon; a little bit more accurate on some of the passes. Decision-making was pretty solid but obviously there's things to work on and to keep learning."

It was a step in the right direction for Rudock as he pushes Dan Orlovsky for the backup role behind Matthew Stafford, or at least the possibility of the Lions carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Rudock finished with the highest passer rating of the three (120.3) but also the lowest average yards per completion (6.5).

"I felt good, felt confident,” Rudock said. “I feel that's a big testament to our coaches for putting so many hours into me and allowing me to prepare, get better and obviously our offensive line, too, did a great job giving me a good, clean pocket. Those guys did a great job for us."

After Stafford played the Lions’ opening drive, Orlovsky (16-for-25, 164 yards) took over the rest of the first half and led the team to three scoring drives – which could’ve been four if not for a drop by Jeremy Kerley – on five possessions. Orlovsky threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts but his play was marred by a terrible pick-six on a ball he was trying to throw away.

Rudock’s performance wasn’t perfect either. He fumbled a snap and overthrew Jace Billingsley one play before connecting with Billingsley on a 27-yard catch-and-run score.

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"I mean obviously there's still more to get put in and we need to stay on top of that,” Rudock said. “Just keep working at that, keep trying to be crisp and confident with your reads and if there's something you're not sure of, just talk to the coaches and try to figure that out. You don't want to go out there and get a play that you're not comfortable with. Just try to work hard each night and get better."

For Rudock, it’s his third offensive system he’s had to learn in as many years after transferring to Michigan from Iowa. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that’s an advantage because it means Rudock is able to adapt to systems and changes more easily than quarterbacks who have been in the same system for a while.

“(He's shown) he can become very proficient within an offense like he did when he went to Michigan in a very short period of time and then come out and certainly play well,” Caldwell said. “He’s shown the same ability here, nothing seems to rattle him. He’s got a great temperament but he’s also a fine competitor.”

Caldwell gave Rudock high marks for his performance, saying he was “solid” in his first NFL action and didn’t look much like a rookie out on the field.

“When I say ‘solid’ I mean that in a good way,” Caldwell said. “He does some things rather easily, but he’s got a long way to go. I think every week he’s going to learn something a little different, a different sort of attack that he has to deal with, but I think all in all you’re going to see this guy is just going to keep developing, keep maturing and keep getting better.”