Lions' Jeff Driskel, who could get second start Sunday, says it’s 'business as normal'
Allen Park — Jeff Driskel is insisting it’s just like every other week for him at Lions practice — except for one thing.
“I’d say the biggest difference for me is all you guys standing around my locker,” the quarterback told reporters. “It’s kind of the biggest difference for me right now. It’s business as normal.”
There’s a reason the cameras and scribes were there on Wednesday, as franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford sat out practice after sitting out his first game since 2010 three days before.
While Stafford, who the team said is suffering from a hip and back injury, has not been ruled out, signs are pointing toward Driskel getting his first home start for the Lions (3-5-1), who play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Ford Field.
“Repetitions always help,” Driskel said. “I’ve been putting myself in position all year mentally to be ready when called upon, and getting a few extra repetitions here and there definitely helps.
“Getting in and out of the huddle with these guys, calling the plays, everything helps the more you do it.”
After falling 20-13 in Chicago, Dallas (5-4) could present another top-flight defensive challenge.
The unit, which is led by a familiar face in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, is seventh league-wide in total defense (323.2 yards per game) and tied for sixth in points allowed per game (18.9).
Despite being a somewhat unknown entity in the NFL with just six career starts, head coach Jason Garrett and the Dallas staff has a little more familiarity with Driskel. Garrett coached Driskel on the North team in the 2016 Senior Bowl when the Louisiana Tech and Florida product was turning pro.
“Was just really impressed with him as a guy, impressed with him as a quarterback and as an athlete,” Garrett said. "I think you saw all of that in the game last week against Chicago.”
Despite Driskel throwing a late touchdown pass for Garrett's North team in a 27-16 Senior Bowl loss, the Cowboys instead drafted someone from the opposition. In the fourth round, Dallas took Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who won MVP that day. Driskel was taken in the sixth round by San Francisco.
After spending this season on the sidelines before his debut, Driskel said waking up Monday morning after the game was a change. There was no red practice jersey keeping Chicago defenders off him.
“It’s real out there,” he said. “It’s definitely — it was a shock to the body, but it’s a good sore to get back out there and compete. Have to turn back around and get things going again this week. Not much time to think about last week, so we’re all moving forward.”
Kenny Golladay scored a touchdown for the third straight game on Sunday, bringing his league-leading total to eight receiving scores.
The 47-yard connection with Driskel in Golladay's hometown of Chicago was his fourth touchdown catch in three games. His mark this season equals the amount he had in his first two seasons combined.
“Quarterbacks clearly love throwing to him, and he makes a ton of plays for them,” Garrett said. “Certainly, he’ll be one of the many challenges that we’ll have this weekend.”
Golladay is making them count, as his first-down rate of 84.2% leads the NFL. Golladay’s 38 receptions have him tied for 42nd in the league though, and he trails teammate Marvin Jones (47 catches) in that category.
On Sunday, Golladay will be opposite one of the two receivers on his heels for the touchdown lead, as Amari Cooper of Dallas is tied with Mike Evans of Tampa Bay with seven scores apiece.
Former Lions defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. is now with the Cowboys, registering seven tackles, two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery in nine games this season.
In three seasons with Detroit, Hyder had nine sacks and 42 tackles. After an eight-sack campaign in 2016, Hyder ruptured an Achilles tendon in the preseason opener and missed 2017. Last year, Hyder played in seven Detroit games and had one sack.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.