Rudock makes good last impression with three TD passes

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jake Rudock has to make the roster, right?

The Detroit Lions rookie quarterback capped the exhibition slate with his best performance to date, completing 14 of his 23 throws for 171 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-0 win over the Buffalo Bills. And as he’s apt to do, Rudock also made some plays with his feet, picking up another 31 yards on four carries.

But coach Jim Caldwell wasn’t ready to comment on whether the Lions will be keeping two or three quarterbacks to open the season, opting instead to answer the question in roster-building generalities.

“If you keep two, that’s what’s best for your team at the time,” Caldwell said. “If you keep three, that’s what’s best for your team. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll look at the situation and make a determination what’s best for us.”

If he makes the team, Rudock isn’t likely to see the field in 2016, but that doesn’t mean his inclusion wouldn’t be best for the team. Dan Orlovsky, who remains the heavy favorite to be Detroit’s backup, is 33 years old and on a one-year deal. Rudock has proven worthy of development and can more ably move into the backup role next year.

At this point, cutting him and trying to sneak him on to the practice squad is a significant risk. Another team could easily snatch him up off waivers. Heck, it could even be division rival Minnesota, which lost starter Teddy Bridgewater for the season and has shaky depth at the position behind veteran Shaun Hill.

Rudock, a sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan, has shown plenty of promise, both with his arms and his feet. In four exhibition games, he went 30-for-51 for 333 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards.

Against the Bills, Rudock took advantage of his most extensive playing time and seemed to settle into a groove as the game progressed.

He found Jay Lee at the end of the first half on a well-placed fade into the end zone. The rookie signal-caller’s second touchdown came on the move, when he managed to stay behind the line of scrimmage while scrambling to find Jace Billingsley from 10 yards out. The final score saw Rudock lead Adam Fuehne out of his break on an out route, putting it where only the young tight end could make a play.

“That’s huge for a quarterback,” Rudock said about playing more than three quarters. “You kind of get in the flow, you get in the groove there. You kind of start seeing things a little more, rather than having a smaller sample size, so to say.”

While Rudock was comfortable enough to say he felt he played well, he was more reserved when asked if he felt he had earned a roster spot.

“I hope so,” Rudock said. “I mean, that’s the goal, obviously. That’s obviously a better question for coach Caldwell.”

Well, Caldwell isn’t saying, at least until he has to. Rosters must be finalized by 4 p.m. Saturday. But at this point, it would be surprising if Rudock doesn’t make the cut. @justin_rogers