After trying hand at WR, Jeff Driskel brings eagerness to contribute to Lions
Allen Park — Versatility is the ticket to a roster spot for many young NFL players but that rarely applies to quarterback.
Sure, there's the rare exception, like Taysom Hill in New Orleans, who has lined up as a tight end and kick returner for the Saints. But most backup quarterbacks are holding a clipboard when they're not in the game.
New Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn't content being that guy in Cincinnati. In his last month with the team, while still competing for the backup quarterback job, he tried his hand at wide receiver and even explored the possibility of playing special teams for the Bengals.
"Yeah, I just wanted to contribute," Driskel said Thursday. "That was my goal in training camp, to find a way to contribute. I thought my skill set would be able to help in different ways, just do what I can to help the team win. It didn’t work out, so happy to be here."
The Bengals parted ways with Driskel last week and the Lions quickly signed him after working him out, surprisingly releasing veteran backup Josh Johnson to clear room on the roster.
Driskel unquestionably brings rare athleticism to the table. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a quarterback the year he was in the draft, and has one of the 10 fastest times for the position in the past decade.
There's no immediate reason to believe the Lions have plans for Driskel other than at quarterback, but it wouldn't the first time the organization experimented with the position switch. In 2006, offensive coordinator Mike Martz moved backup Josh McCown to receiver. He even caught two passes that season.
Driskel was 13 years old when McCown was lining up at receiver for the Lions, but he surprisingly knew about it.
"I actually saw that this training camp," Driskel said. "We were watching tape of something and I was like, ‘Who is that guy?’ and it was Josh McCown. He actually had a couple catches. I don’t know how many, but he definitely had a couple catches. He’s sneaky athletic."
Before you ask, Driskel has no recollection of why he was watching tape of the 2006 Lions.
Driskel obviously isn't worried about the Bengals anymore. He can't be. Joining the Lions midstream, he's only got a few days to pick up the playbook, at the most difficult position on the field.
"It’s been wild," Driskel said. "You know, you try to learn a lot, you try to learn an offense, try to learn your teammates, get to know your coaches and everything like that, as well as game plan for the Eagles. There’s definitely a lot on my plate right now, but that’s part of the job. It’s been fun to just be around a new group of guys, great group, and I’m just excited to be here and looking forward to getting know these guys and getting going."
Does he think he'll be ready to go by Sunday, in the unlikely event the Lions would need him to suit up?
"Like I said, that’s part of the job," he said. "I would have to do it. Probably, I mean, I still have three days or so to get there, so I’m going to use all the time to get there that I can and be as prepared as I can come Sunday and see what happens. Yeah, it takes time, and I’m going to keep grinding away at it.”