Stafford’s undisclosed leg injury is being evaluated as I type this, however it’s a safe bet that he will not be the starter in Denver (2-4) for Week 8.
Who should get the start at QB for the Lions? Shaun Hill seems to be the anointed No. 2, while Drew Stanton holds the clipboard. Both bring different skill sets to the offense and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have to work in different pages of the playbook for whichever QB gets the nod.
Let's briefly review what Hill and Stanton have to offer before making some observations about the Lions' offense.
Hill played in 11 games in 2010; starting 10 under similar circumstances. Hill played 712 snaps and for his 448 drop-backs he went 257 of 416 (61.8) for 2686 yards, 16 TDs and 12 INTs. Hill’s remaining drop-backs were 17 sacks and on 15 other occasions, Hill tucked the rock and ran.
Hill is primarily a game manager who is better suited for a West Coast style offense. He seldom stretches the field and tends to “float” passes down the field.
Stanton was pressed into service six times in 2010, starting three times. Stanton played 247 snaps. He had 132 drop-backs where he went 69 for 119 (58.0) for 780 yards, four TDs and three INTs. Stanton was sacked six times and ran seven times out of the pocket.
Stanton is more of a gunslinger who can stretch the field, but inconsistent accuracy issues persist. He holds onto the ball longer and is prone to locking onto primary receivers. Stanton would rather run than check-down, but can make plays with his feet.
Who Is Better Suited To Start in Denver?
We have to face the fact that the Lions are now a one dimensional offense. Opposing defenses know that they can effectively rush the QB on every snap.
With no Lions running game to speak of, defenses will dial up the blitz against the hapless Lions offensive line, a line hampered by the Lions propensity for playing out of the shotgun.
With defensive pressure now intensifying against the pass-happy Lions, which QB offers the Lions the best chance at victory? The game manager (Hill), or the gunslinger (Stanton)?
Hill is the politically correct choice if Scott Linehan can install a West Coast type offensive play set. With the exception of WR Titus Young and RB Kieland Williams, every starter on offense has a lot of experience working with Hill.
Stanton, on the other hand, offers the Lions another designed running option that could prove to be successful if for no other reason other than occupying a linebacker who would have to be employed as a spy.
The Coach's Decision
One thing that we’ve learned about the Lions coaching staff is that they will stick to a rigid plan come hell, or high water. Part of that plan features a rigid hierarchy at the QB position.
If Stafford is unable to start in Denver, Hill seems to be the logical choice, given the coaching paradigm. This, however, might deprive the Lions of the opportunity to evaluate Stanton’s ability to cobble up yardage with his legs.
Stanton, in my opinion, should get a shot to inject some life into an otherwise moribund running attack by utilizing some designed QB run plays.
Coming off two consecutive home losses where the Lions offense failed to keep defenses honest, Drew Stanton might be the Lions' best hope in Denver.