Lions' Blough making most of preseason opportunities, pushing for backup job
Pittsburgh — The Detroit Lions seemingly found their backup quarterback on the first day of free agency this offseason, signing Tim Boyle away from the Green Bay Packers with a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
But holdover David Blough, who lost the entirety of his support system in Detroit when the coaches and front office who traded for him and invested in his development were fired in the past year, has given the Lions something to think about in the days ahead of their final roster decisions.
For the second consecutive preseason game, which coach Dan Campbell has said plays the biggest role in player evaluations, Blough out-performed his counterpart.
Entering the game midway through the third quarter against the Steelers on Saturday night, Blough inherited a 23-point deficit and managed to get the Lions within striking distance to win the game with a trio of touchdown drives.
"It's always fun, always good, when you can go out and score points," Blough said. "It was ugly at some points, it wasn't always perfect, but I think it says something about the guys. Obviously we want to win, we want to finish. It says something about the guys that want to go out there and fight."
Blough finished his evening completing 12 of 17 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled twice for another 26 yards, keeping another scoring drive alive.
Through the first two games, playing a similar amount of snaps, Blough has the edge on Boyle in most statistical categories, including completing 23.9% more of his throws for 137 more yards.
"I think I've had a good training camp," Boyle said. "Your evaluation is games and I don't think I've played well enough, to my standards, in the game. I've put people into position to make plays. Can I be more accurate? Can I be more on time? Can I make better decisions? Of course. But like I keep telling you guys, it's just a matter of banking those reps."
Both easy-going guys off-the-field, Blough and Boyle have formed a fast friendship. Even though they're competing for the same job, they're supportive of each other. So despite frustrations with his own performance against the Steelers, Boyle was quick to praise his challenger's outing.
"David played incredible tonight," Boyle said. "He's a competitor, man. He really is. He impresses me every day. He's just got that mindset of, go out there and throw the ball and sling it. A lot of off-schedule (plays) today for him, which worked out nice, but yeah, he put us in a position to win the game today. That's all you can ask.
"In the quarterback room, we're proud of him," Boyle continued. "I'm proud of him. We're going to continue to push each other every day, and that's how I like it. That's how he likes it."
Blough, who has spent the past two seasons with the Lions after being acquired in a deal from Cleveland at the end of the 2019 preseason, isn't just fighting for a roster spot. He's fighting to prove he's a better player than he's shown with his early-career opportunities.
As a rookie in 2019, he went winless in five starts, posting a dismal 64.0 passer rating in the process. Last year, he only registered 10 pass attempts, but still managed to throw an interception.
"It's fun having that little bit of experience, but it kind of left a sour taste in my mouth the way it ended," he said. "I know my best football is in front of me, and every day I have a task to get better. I've been around some great guys. This is my third year, and this is my third No. 1 overall pick at quarterback that I've been around (Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield). I've gotten to learn from guys and just add things to my tool belt, and hopefully I'll continue to grow as a player, as a man, as a leader, and one day when it's all said and done, I'm not going to have any regrets."
With one preseason game remaining, which Goff is expected to sit out, the Lions will have one more lenghty opportunity to evaluate their situation behind the starter.
"I would say this, I like both of our quarterbacks," Campbell said after the game. "I think, ultimately, you’re looking for: Can I trust the guy that’s behind Goff? Do I know this guy’s going take care of the ball? I know he’ll be efficient, he can efficiently move our offense, he’ll give us a chance to win games.
"More than anything, it’s about trust," Campbell said. "I would say, really, just because we’ve been with these guys so long in camp, I really do trust both of them. I like them. I think they’re both very different in the way that they go about how they do things and the way they play."