Detroit Lions QB Chase Daniel shows off speed he didn’t know he had

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Chase Daniel surprised even himself.

And if there had been any fans at Ford Field, he probably would have surprised them, too, with his sudden speed Sunday on a run to the end zone.

“I didn’t know I still had that sort of speed around the edge, so that gave me a little bit of confidence knowing that, at 34, I could still scoot just a little bit,” the Detroit Lions’ backup quarterback said Wednesday. “But it was all for nothing. It would have been nice to score (a touchdown) on that drive.”

Yes, Daniel’s sweet run to the right edge was for naught as a holding penalty nullified the play. But it was impressive nonetheless — for two reasons — in Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

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The play was simply an impressive feat of skill, but it was doubly impressive because it came on the only drive Daniel got to play after he replaced an injured Matthew Stafford in the final 4 minutes.

Jamal Agnew’s 71-yard kickoff return set up the drive at the Packers’ 33-yard line with 3:30 left. And before Daniel used his legs, he used his arm effectively. He completed a beautiful pass to Marvin Jones for 23 yards on third-and-9.

And then came Daniel’s run to the goal line.

On third-and-goal from the 4, Daniel took the snap out of the shotgun with four receivers. The Packers dropped into great coverage. Running back D’Andre Swift released out of the backfield when he saw the Packers only rushing four, but he mistakenly ran to his left into double coverage. If he had run to his right it likely would have been an easy touchdown pass for Daniel.

With all receiving options covered, Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith bull-rushed right tackle Matt Nelson and closed in on Daniel. Nelson held Smith when he realized he was beat.

Maybe Nelson was as astonished by Daniel’s speed and elusiveness as everyone else, because Daniel likely would have evaded Smith as he darted to his right and then beat three other Packers to the pylon.

The Lions settled for a field goal, which made it a successful drive.

“So, for the most part, I felt pretty happy, the coaches were pretty happy with what I was able to do … then we got the big return from Ag,” Daniel said. “That definitely helps. I was hoping for another chance, that’s for sure.”

But that speed. As surprising and impressive as it was, Daniel wasn’t ready for comparisons to Lamar Jackson.

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“I don’t think I’m on that level,” he said. “Let’s just pull the brakes with that. Listen, I’m just going to go through my reads. If a play breaks down, just like any other quarterback, I’m going to try to get out of trouble and find the open guy.”

After 12 years as an NFL backup, some may forget Daniel was once a potent run threat in Missouri’s spread offense from 2005-2008, rushing  for 970 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, as well as passing for 12,515 yards and 101 touchdowns.

Of course, that was a lifetime ago. Daniel admits he doesn’t take much pleasure in running anymore.

“I mean, not really because I get tired,” he said. “And I’m not in as good a shape as I used to be. Pretty good shape, but I prefer to pass the football like a quarterback does. But definitely, when stuff breaks down I can use my legs a little bit.”

Daniel will get most if not all of the practice reps with the first-team offense this week with Stafford dealing with a rib-cartilage injury. That could give interim coach Darrell Bevell a better sense of how he can use Daniel’s mobility if he starts Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

“It just opens up different areas of the game plan for you,” Bevell said Wednesday. “Some things can be a little bit, I guess, simplified when you have a little bit more of a mobile quarterback. You can do different things and you can simplify the game in certain ways for him, because you can obviously always save the play with your feet.

“That doesn’t take anything away from Matthew. He does a phenomenal job and he does everything that we would ever want him to do. But just at that position, you’re going to get minimal reps, so you’re not going to be able to be as dialed in on some of the progressions and reads, and being mobile enables you to kind of give you that second chance opportunity on a play.”

Daniel, like all backups, said he practices and prepares every week as though he’s going to start. Still, he said he’s a little more excited this week.

“Yeah, I mean listen, any time you get a chance to play and you get a little bit of a taste of it like I did last week and then you just don’t know what’s going to happen, of course I’m pumped,” he said. “I’m pumped to be out there with the teammates. You play the game to play and if my number’s called I’ll definitely be ready.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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