Lions to start Boyle after Goff tests injury; Decker good to go after scare

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — For the first time this season, the Detroit Lions are set to have a different starting quarterback. With Jared Goff still dealing with an oblique strain, Tim Boyle will be under center for the team when they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns on Sunday. 

"Opportunities, especially in the NFL, come very few times unfortunately," Boyle said. "But that’s the beauty of the NFL, it’s so competitive. It’s been a long journey. Just kind of reminiscing on my story, starting football when I was six years old, and here I am as a 27-year-old and still blessed to have this opportunity.

Lions quarterback Tim Boyle hands off to rookie running back Jermar Jefferson.

"... I don't really think I envisioned myself starting in the NFL," Boyle said. "It was always a dream. You don't really think about it until it happens."

An undrafted rookie in 2018, Boyle has never started a game and seen limited playing time during his career, typically entering in the late stages of blowouts while serving as Aaron Rodgers' backup in Green Bay. For Boyle's career, he's thrown just four passes, completing three for 15 yards. 

In training camp, Boyle had a noticeably stronger arm than Detroit's other quarterbacks, regularly having more success working the ball downfield. Lions coach Dan Campbell was asked if the switch could open up more of the playbook, contrasted against the seemingly risk-adverse Goff, who ranks 32nd out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks on average depth of target this season. 

"Well, it's tough to say right now," Campbell said. "Let me say this about Tim Boyle, he lacks zero confidence, I can tell you that. He's got plenty of confidence. That's a good thing, but that can also, you know what I mean? We'll see where this game goes if he's our guy and see where the weather takes us, see where he takes us. But I know this, we have to be smart with it and let him work into a rhythm."

Goff, who suffered his injury in the first quarter of last Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, spent the past two days resting in hopes of getting medically cleared. He arrived at the facility feeling good Friday, but after trying to throw ahead of the day's practice, the team decided it was best to keep him sidelined. He's officially listed as doubtful on the final injury report. 

Highly durable during his six-year career, it will be just the second game Goff has missed due to injury since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016. Despite the personal disappointment, Boyle said Goff has been a perfect teammate this week, helping his backup get prepared. 

"He's been awesome," said Boyle, who played collegiately at UConn and Eastern Kentucky. "He hasn't skipped a beat, at all. Obviously, there are emotions with getting hurt and doing treatments all day and there's a psychological effect, but he has not skipped a beat in the meeting rooms. 

"I really am so grateful for Jared," Boyle said. "He's been awesome this week. He's been coaching me this whole week. He's been in his hoodie, been trying to stay warm, but it's been constant coaching and constant little tidbits that he knows, that he's used in his past to try to help me along in my career."

Lions quarterback Jared Goff is on the shelf.

Prior to making this start, Boyle has spent the first nine games of the season on injured reserve, suffering a thumb injury requiring surgery in the preseason. 

"I would say Wednesday he looked a little rusty, which you would expect," Campbell said. "He came back yesterday and looked better, and I would expect he looks even better today. I would say he's on track."

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Boyle said it was the first time he had suffered an injury to his throwing hand or arm and it was eight or nine weeks of steady rehab before he felt back to normal. During that down time, he focused on staying mentally sharp. 

"Coach Campbell fortunately allowed me to stay in every single meeting," Boyle said. "I was on the sideline for every game. I traveled to away games, so my mind has been in it. I’ve been staying in the playbook, I’ve been sharp, helping Jared prepare so from a mental standpoint I don’t feel like I’ve really skipped a beat. It’s more so getting out here and every rep I had this week has been extremely valuable."

Boyle's parents, siblings, girlfriend and a few close friends will be in the stands for his debut as a starter, but he insists nerves won't be an issue. 

"Good things happen to good people who work hard," Boyle said. "I've always told myself that. I feel like I'm a good person. I try to spread kindness, love and do my thing. Yeah, reflecting on my journey, it's been perseverance and self-confidence.

"’... I'll meditate (Saturday night)," Boyle said. "I’ll breathe, talk to my family. I’ll study, and go to bed. Easy. It’s football. I’ve been playing since I was six. It’s an awesome opportunity, but at the end of the day, I can’t psyche myself out."

Decker good to go

There's less concern about Taylor Decker after the offensive tackle sat out Thursday's practice with an elbow injury. He returned Friday, in a limited capacity, and is listed as questionable for the contest. 

"I think he's good," Campbell said. "I think it's not as bad as we thought it could be. I think we're fine and I think he's going to be good to go. Look, he's tough, man. He's going to handle this well. He got it checked out and should be good."

Decker missed the first eight games this season after suffering a broken finger that required surgery and the implementation of a plate and five screws to correct. He returned last week to play all 71 offensive snaps against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Prior to missing those eight contests, Decker had started 55 of the past 56 games for the Lions. 

Flowers ruled out

For the third time this season, outside linebacker Trey Flowers will be sidelined by a nagging knee injury. He exited last week's game after it was reaggravated, but managed to return in the second half, in time to recover a critical fumble that helped preserve a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

"The guys in this room, (they've been) calling Trey the terminator," teammate Julian Okwara said. "I think (Michael Brockers) got him that name after he came back into the game."

With Flowers out, Okwara is expected to take on a bigger role against the Browns. 

"I've been ready," he said. "I'm begging for more reps."

In addition to Flowers, the Lions ruled out offensive lineman Matt Nelson (ankle) and running back Jermar Jefferson (knee/ankle). Safety Tracy Walker (concussion), running back Jamaal Williams (thigh) and wide receiver Trinity Benson (knee) are all questionable.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers