Dan Campbell got ‘clarity’ in Detroit Lions’ backup QB race, but what kind?

Detroit Free Press

PITTSBURGH — Dan Campbell found “clarity” in the Detroit Lions‘ backup quarterback battle Sunday, and that could be bad news for Tim Boyle and David Blough.

With Jared Goff sitting as a healthy scratch, Boyle and Blough split quarterback reps in the Lions’ 19-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of the preseason.

Both Boyle and Blough played multiple series with the mostly first-team offense — the Lions played their regular offensive line and receivers, but sat top running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams — and both struggled to sustain drives as the Lions fell behind, 16-0, in the first half.

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Boyle, making his first start of the preseason, completed five of 15 passes for 64 yards with one interception. He played three series with the first-team offense and managed three first downs and 44 net yards of offense. After giving way to Blough for most of the second quarter, Boyle returned in the third quarter and led the second-team offense on an eight-play, 67-yard field goal drive.

Blough was 17-for-32 passing for 160 yards. He led the first-team offense to two first downs in two series, but capped the team’s lone touchdown drive with a scrambling 5-yard shovel pass to Quintez Cephus with 30 seconds to play.

“Here’s what I would say is, I think it became very clear,” Campbell said when asked where things stood in the battle for the backup job. “I think we got things answered, and I would leave it at that.”

Campbell declined to say whether that means the team will be looking to upgrade the No. 2 quarterback spot when NFL teams cut their rosters from 80 to 53 players on Tuesday.

Asked if he believes his backup is on the team currently, Campbell said, “I just would say ‘clarity’ and then we’ll see where it goes. That’s as far as I’m willing to go right now.”

The Lions have held an open competition for the backup quarterback job between Boyle and Blough since spring.

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Boyle and Blough alternated days running the second-team offense throughout OTAs and training camp, and both players made one preseason start.

Boyle, who went 0-3 as a fill-in starter for Goff last season, completed 56.5% of his passes (26 of 46) this preseason for 274 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Blough, who has attempted just 10 regular-season passes since he went 0-5 as a fill-in starter for Matthew Stafford as a rookie in 2019, finished 51-for-82 this preseason (62.2%) for 377 yards. He threw two touchdowns, had one interception, lost one fumble and held back his emotion when asked about Campbell’s “clarity” comments Sunday.

“Look, I’ll just — I want to go out and score points, I want to lead those guys, I want to stand back there and win with our team and they have decisions they got to make,” Blough said. “It’s hard, I just, I appreciate them having me here and having a chance to play ball. Jared and I were kind of talking about it, I’ve got no regrets, man. I’ve no regrets.”

Blough said the Steelers defense “did a good job putting us in hard positions all day,” and he said his late touchdown pass, when he scrambled out of the pocket and flipped the ball to Cephus as two Steelers defenders knocked him to the ground, was reminiscent of playground football.

“I think every single guy in here grew up playing football in the front yard so when one of those happens, it kind of takes you back to when you’re a kid,” Blough said. “Even at this level, it can still work.”

Whether Blough or Boyle can work as Goff’s backup is another story.

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Campbell said he and Lions general manager Brad Holmes would meet about their roster on the plane ride home from Pittsburgh, then get together again around noon Monday.

The Lions are expected to make a handful of cuts Monday before finalizing their initial 53-man roster before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Asked how confident he is either Blough or Boyle can win if called upon in the regular season, Campbell said, “I’m not even going to get into it right now.”

“I want to talk to Brad and I want to talk to the coaches,” he said. “But I know just myself watching, I felt like we got a lot of clarity.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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