North Notes: Rudock, Orlovsky, Mallett

Through the first two games of the preseason, Lions rookie quarterback Jake Rudock has outplayed veteran Dan Orlovsky by a wide margin, which has left many wondering who will serve as Matthew Stafford‘s primary backup in 2016. Although Orlovsky entered training camp with a huge lead over the rookie for the backup job, and few expected Rudock to seriously vie for it — indeed, Orlovsky has the game experience that a team looks for in a No. 2 signal-caller, and Rudock did not play very well during Detroit’s offseason program — Rudock’s performance and Orlovsky’s struggles in the preseason may leave head coach Jim Caldwell with a difficult decision. When asked who he expected to win the job, Caldwell said, “the best player, period” (article via Kyle Meinke of

Of course, as Meinke observes, the best player for the short term isn’t always the best player for the long term, so Caldwell’s comments do not add much clarity, and Caldwell would reveal little else about how the Lions would go about choosing between the quarterbacks, other than to say the club is weighing its options. As Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press writes, if the Lions keep all three quarterbacks, you can count on Orlovsky being the No. 2 on gamedays. The real question is who the Lions keep if they carry just one backup, which is usually how New England built its roster when Lions GM Bob Quinn was in the front office there.

Now for a quick swing around the league’s North divisions:

  • In a separate piece, Birkett examines Stevan Ridley‘s roster status, noting that Ridley has surprisingly been relegated to the second half of the Lions‘ first two preseason games. Ridley, the five-year veteran who was expected to challenge Zach Zenner for the “big back” role on offense, played just nine snaps during Detroit’s Thursday night contest. As Birkett notes, however, it is still too early to read too much into preseason playing time, especially since Ridley is easily the most accomplished of the group of backs fighting for a roster spot behind Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Similarly, Caldwell said the Lions are still figuring out their running back rotation, and preseason performance is only one part of the formula.
  • Although it was believed that the Ravens signed veteran signal-caller Josh Johnson to be little more than a camp arm, with Ryan Mallett firmly entrenched as Joe Flacco‘s backup, Johnson has played very well in Baltimore’s first two preseason contests, and head coach John Harbaugh indicated last night that there is indeed a legitimate battle for the backup job between Johnson and Mallett (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun). Mallett has also played reasonably well during the preseason games but has struggled mightily during training camp. Whether Harbaugh’s comments have any truth behind them, or whether they are simply intended to motivate Mallett, remains to be seen.
  • Chris Tomasson of The St. Paul Pioneer Press believes that the battle for the Vikings‘ starting strong safety spot will again come down to the wire, just as it has in each of the past two seasons. As Tomasson writes, incumbent Andrew Sendejo got the nod in the Aug. 12 preseason opener at Cincinnati before Michael Griffin started in Thursday’s 18-11 win at Seattle. There are two more games left for the two to fight it out.
  • Earlier today, we learned what Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell had to say about his suspension.
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