Detroit Lions have a dilemma at QB with Teddy Bridgewater debut coming

Detroit Free Press

Adrian Martinez led the Detroit Lions on a game-winning drive in Friday’s preseason-opening, 21-16, win over the New York Giants.

He completed both of his passes on the drive, scrambled for a key third-and-7 conversion and scored on a 1-yard run.

Martinez earned the second-highest Pro Football Focus grade of any Lions offensive player for his performance. His reward this week: Fewer practice and game reps against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Lions have five quarterbacks on their 91-man roster, including injured third-round pick Hendon Hooker, and with new backup Teddy Bridgewater set to make his practice debut Monday, Lions coach Dan Campbell said Martinez, understandably, will see a reduction in role.

“The plan right now would be, Martinez is going to get a little bit less cause Teddy needs to start getting some,” Campbell said Saturday. “So you’re looking at Nate (Sudfeld) and Teddy right now, and Adrian’s the one who’s probably going to have to take a little bit of a backseat and not get as many reps.”

The Lions signed Bridgewater last week as insurance for Jared Goff, and while he’s widely expected to be their No. 2 quarterback, Campbell has insisted the backup job remains up for grabs.

Bridgewater went 0-2 as a starter with the Miami Dolphins last season and threw as many interceptions as touchdowns (four), completing 62% of his passes. He’s a known commodity to Campbell from their two seasons together with the New Orleans Saints, but Campbell said, “we need to see if (Teddy’s) still got it,” and that’s what the next two weeks of practice will be for.

DAVE BIRKETT: Predicting Detroit Lions 53-man roster: Tough decisions await at QB, WR, DL

Assuming Bridgewater still has “it,” the Lions will have a tough decision to make at QB before the roster is cut to 53 players Aug. 29.

The Lions championed a new rule this offseason to allow teams to dress a third quarterback and not have that player count against the game day roster, so they recognize the importance of having good depth at the position behind Goff.

But with a deep roster and veteran backup in Bridgewater, they also may find more value in keeping an extra receiver, defensive back or pass rusher rather than three QBs on their initial 53-man roster.

Hooker will open the season on the physically unable to perform list, but could be back later in the season. Sudfeld had a mixed preseason debut for the Lions after not attempting a pass in the regular season last year, when he signed with the team after being released by the San Francisco 49ers following training camp.

Sudfeld completed 15 of 28 passes for 194 yards in three quarters against the Giants, but threw two interceptions and did not lead a touchdown drive.

Sudfeld’s first turnover came on the Lions’ first offensive snap, when he got hit as he threw deep to Jameson Williams and undershot his target. The Lions were trying to catch the Giants offsides on the play, but snapped the ball late and did not get the penalty or the benefits of a free shot downfield.

He threw his second interception late in the first half when he forced a pass into tight coverage and threw high and behind Williams, after Williams did not get a clean release at the line of scrimmage.

“He’s trying to squeeze a ball in there to Jamo and it was high and hot, and then Jamo got squeezed in the middle, so it’s really on both of them,” Campbell said. “But we hate to discourage throwing those daggers into the field. We want him to launch them and he did that and it didn’t work out. But I would say there was more positive than negative on Nate. I felt that way.”

ANALYSIS: Jameson Williams showed why Lions drafted him, and why there’s reason to worry

Sudfeld played better in some ways Friday than his numbers would indicate. Williams, Sam LaPorta and Jason Cabinda had dropped passes, with LaPorta’s coming on a fourth down early in the game. Sudfeld drove the Lions inside the Giants’ 5-yard line on their final possession of the first half only to throw incomplete to Dylan Drummond in the end zone.

If the Lions decide to keep Sudfeld on their 53-man roster, or decide not to but can convince him to accept a spot on the practice squad, that could leave Martinez, an undrafted rookie from Kansas State, without a home.

Martinez finished 4 of 7 passing for 37 yards and added 14 yards rushing. He is not close to being NFL-ready, but has shown steady improvement recently after an erratic spring.

“I thought he was really composed (against the Giants),” Campbell said. “I thought he handled everything very well, and you don’t know what to expect. We see him every day in practice and we’re hard on him, but, man, I thought he commanded the huddle, I thought he ran the offense, I thought he was efficient, I thought he was unphased. That’s what you want out of your quarterback. And made a few plays with his legs. We had a couple of things, outlets that if you felt the pressure, man, he didn’t miss a beat. He was on it, so I was impressed.”

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

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