ORCHARD PARK, N. Y. – Lions-Bills Final Thoughts:Rudock backing up Game 3 effort; return job still up for grabs; Pat O’Connor and other rookie DEs coping with change and four position battles to watch:
Jake’s take: Jake Rudock would like to start what he finished a week ago.
Rudock played well in the second half of the Lions’ loss to the New England Patriots in Game 3 after taking over for Matthew Stafford.
Stafford’s two touchdown passes had cut a 24-0 deficit to 24-14 when Rudock entered the game for the second possession of the second half. Rudock led two TD drives for a 28-24 lead before the Patriots rallied back to win.
It was a good showing by Rudock – 10 completions in 13 attempts for 113 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 128.0 for the game.
“It was good,” Rudock said. “The second team – the whole unit did a good job of taking what we had to and seeing what they were doing to us.”
This likely will be Rudock’s first start. His other action has been as a reserve – four games last year, three this year.
“I just want to move the offense downfield and get first downs,” he said. “That’s your job as a quarterback – to move the ball downfield.
“Every game’s a new game. That’s the first thing. You want to get a first down, then get another first down. You get enough of those, eventually you’re in the end zone.”
Rush job: Rookies have given the defensive line good production, and they have to continue that to make a favorable last impression to win roster spots. Every snap is vital for three defensive ends — seventh-round draft pick Pat O’Connor and undrafted free agents Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga.
“You take every opportunity like it’s your last,” O’Connor said. “When you do that, make the most of it. You’ve got to step up when your name is called.”
Like all rookies who are used to starting, O’Connor has had to adjust to going in cold, and playing spot duty.
“You take mental reps (on the sideline) so you don’t mess up,” he said. “It’s a big difference,”
Return man: Head coach Jim Caldwell would have liked to have the return job settled before tonight, but it’s wide open, with no lead candidate.
“That’s why we have this fourth game, so we’ll narrow it down,” Caldwell said. “Some guys have done fairly well, but we’ll get a chance to kind of put them in the middle of it this week.”
The release earlier in the week of Keshawn Martin, whose only punt return of 23 yards was the longest in the first three games, leaves three candidates who have returned punts this preseason – rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew and wide receivers Jace Billingsley and TJ Jones.
It’s possible that the return man is not on the roster and could be a player who is let go in the final cut.
The Lions hit it big in 2010 by claiming Stefan Logan on waivers after he was cut by the Steelers. He was a Pro Bowl alternate his first year in Detroit and a Lion through 2012.
Position battles: Here are four to watch, for depth and roster spots, or a combination of both:
Offensive line: The Lions kept nine on the 53-player roster to start the season. Backup guard and tackle are two spots to watch. Two tackles who were on the roster last year – starting left tackle Taylor Decker and backup Corey Robinson – are on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Linebacker: Rookie linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was aggressive, with a tackle for loss on defense and a tackle on special teams. He isn’t threatening for a starting job, but could move up in the rotation.
Secondary: Quandre Diggs has had a strong camp and preseason as the nickel back, but DJ Hayden has starting experience.
Wide receiver/tight end: The Lions kept four of each in the last cut last year, but it could be a 5-3 split this year.