By: Jeff Risdon | Lions Wire
If there has been any positive development from Matthew Stafford’s back injury, it’s been the play of Jeff Driskel as his reserve. Driskel has performed admirably in Stafford’s absence, much better than most Lions fans anticipated.
Granted expectations were pretty darn low for Driskel. Most fans remember him as the former No. 1 QB recruit in the nation who fizzled at Florida. Some caught him in his five games as the starter for the last-place Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, the first time he’d played since being a 6th-round pick by the 49ers back in 2016.
Driskel did complete 59.7 percent of his passes in those games with Cincinnati, tossing six TDs against two INTs and also running for 130 yards at over five yards per clip. Not bad, but certainly nothing to get excited about as the injury-ravaged Bengals played out the string for a lame-duck Marvin Lewis as the coach.
The coaching situation might be different in Detroit, but Driskel has proven consistent. What he showed he could do with the Bengals — being an effective, agile No. 2 QB — has carried over into Detroit.
In his two starts in place of the injured Matthew Stafford, Driskel continues to produce modestly decent numbers. His completion percentage has fallen just a bit to 58.3, but he’s also playing with the WR corps that gets the worst separation in the NFL. The TD/INT ratio remains the same at 3-to-1, and Driskel has improved his yards per attempt and yards per completion by almost a full yard in each. He’s also proving a little more dangerous on the ground, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and extending several drives (six 1st down runs) with his ability to tuck and run.
It’s certainly not Driskel’s fault the team is 0-2 with him at the helm. He’s led the Lions to 40 points in two games against two teams that held top-5 scoring defenses entering the game, Dallas and Chicago.
He’s made some very nice plays, showing the ability to throw on the run and keep his eyes down the field. This is a play Matt Cassel, Jake Rudock, Kellen Moore or other recent Stafford backups never makes:
He still needs work. A lot of work. Driskel consistently holds the ball too long, especially on shorter throws. He’s not nearly as aggressive as Stafford at attacking down the field, a key component of Darrell Bevell’s offense.
The Lions have a lot of holes on the roster once the 2019 season ends and contracts expire. Backup quarterback doesn’t need to be one of them. Nobody should be suggesting that Driskel is good enough to usurp Stafford and take over the starting gig. Driskel himself would bristle at that notion. But No. 2 has shown more than enough to prove worthy of a contract extension to continue as Detroit’s backup QB.