Lions backup QB Nate Sudfeld practices, starts to learn offense

Tim Boyle and David Blough had every opportunity to become the Lions backup quarterback for this season. Instead both were released and the Lions signed Nate Sudfeld who was cut due to a numbers issue by the 49ers.

“They just didn’t quite make the jump we were expecting them to make,’’ Lions GM Brad Holmes said at a Thursday press conference.

It has been a whirlwind for Sudfeld who caught a red-eye flight on Tuesday night in San Francisco, landed in Detroit at 5 a.m. Wednesday and went straight to the Lions facility for meetings and practice. He managed nine hours of sleep Wednesday night and was feeling rested and ready for practice on Thursday morning.

“It happened fast, but I’m super-pumped to be here,’’ said Sudfeld who wore No. 12 which was last worn by Boyle.

He’s got a lot to learn and a short time to learn it with the regular season preparation starting next week. The season opener is Sept. 11 against the Eagles at Ford Field.

Sudfeld, who is in his seventh NFL season, has learned from other quarterbacks while at the 49ers, Eagles and Washington.

“A lot of concepts I’ve definitely run and done before, there’s a lot of new verbiage and memorization things so definitely going to continue to study, definitely a lot of carryover,’’ Sudfeld said. “There’s some different concepts I haven’t done before but I love how much we do at the line of scrimmage and how much confidence they have in Jared (Goff) and the quarterbacks getting us into the right play. Really looking forward to the opportunity.’’

Sudfeld, 28, knows Goff although they’ve never been on the same team. They have the same agent, both are from northern California and came out for the NFL draft in the same year. Occasionally they have worked out together in the offseason.

“It’s been a beautiful journey that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of and just try to get better every year, the older you get you just want to stack years and keep improving as a player,’’ Sudfeld said. “All the other stuff it’s just a matter of time, it will take care of itself.’’

Holmes didn’t address the situation, but if Blough clears waivers he could be signed to the Lions’ practice squad.

“We did what is best for the organization at this time. There were a lot of different options. You can trade a bunch of draft capital for a backup quarterback, there’s a lot of different options. We did the best thing for Detroit,’’ Holmes said.

Lions trim roster to 53 with no major surprises; Boyle, Davis released

No huge surprises were found among the Lions who were released or waived on Tuesday to cut the roster down to an NFL-mandated 53 players.

The roster is fluid and could change daily. Also, the Lions can bring back 16 players to the practice squad on Wednesday, but they must clear waivers first.

Coach Dan Campbell made it clear on Monday that the Lions will be searching for possible pickups especially since they have the No. 2 chance to sign players (due to last season’s 3-13-1 record).

Since quarterback Tim Boyle was released, it appears that David Blough has won the backup quarterback role at least for now.

Wide receiver Tom Kennedy had a good camp but could have been a victim of numbers and was not solid on special teams. Wide receivers Maurice Alexander and Kalil Pimpleton (the juggler on “Hard Knocks”) were also waived and could reappear on the practice squad. Wide receivers who made the cut are DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus.

Tight end Devin Funchess didn’t make the roster. The Lions are going with tight ends T.J. Hockenson, Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra and James Mitchell.

LInebacker Jarrad Davis, who the Lions were giving a second chance, was released. Davis was a first-round pick of the Lions in 2017 but they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option in May 2020 and he signed with the Giants.

Kicker Riley Patterson was waived. Patterson and Austin Seibert seemed to be neck and neck in the position battle. Seibert was 10 of 12 on field goals for the Lions in 2021.

The Lions will open the season on Sept. 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field.

PLACED ON RESERVE/PUP

CB Jerry Jacobs

RELEASED

QB Tim Boyle

LB Jarrad Davis

TE Devin Funchess

DL Bruce Hector

RB Justin Jackson

T Kendall Lamm

T Dan Skipper 

WAIVED

WR Maurice Alexander

CB Cedric Boswell

TE Derrick Deese

T Obinna Eze

CB Mark Gilbert

LB James Houston

RB Godwin Igwebuike

WR Tom Kennedy

CB A.J. Parker

K Riley Patterson

T Darrin Paulo

WR Kalil Pimpleton

LB Anthony Pittman

CB Saivion Smith 

WAIVED INJURED

DL Eric Banks

WR Trinity Benson

DL Jashon Cornell

G Kevin Jarvis

S C.J. Moore

Lions LB Derrick Barnes impresses, battles for starting role; camp notes

Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes, a fourth-round pick in 2021, has noticed the game slowing down during training camp and the first two preseason games.

Barnes is looking to win a starting role. So far linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard likes what he sees.

“Derrick Barnes is coming, that’s a real thing. That player is a very explosive, very violent, very strong linebacker. For Derrick it’s always been above the neck, it’s not below the neck. He has everything you’re looking for below the neck,’’ Sheppard said.

“To play stack linebacker at a high level, it takes repetition, you can know the playbook all you want, when things are moving you got to know what you’re keying, what you’re diagnosing and in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds be able to ready and go make plays, that takes time,’’ Sheppard said. “And It’s my job as his coach to put him in as many situations as I can possibly do to prepare him for that. That player is a player that I am very pleased with.’’

Sheppard said he wasn’t telling the media anything he had not shared with his players.

As a rookie Barnes played in all 17 games with six starts last season. He finished with 67 tackles (36 solo) and two sacks.

Barnes said he came in during the spring OTAs with a focus on learning the playbook and now hopes to go out and execute. He appreciates the coaches who push him and all the guys in the linebackers room.

“Just the way he coaches, techniques for linebackers to work on, Just the mental aspect like he’s really big on that,’’ Barnes said after Thursday’s camp practice. “That’s helped me out a lot, helped me understand more about football, not only just going out and hitting somebody. Just the route concepts and what the offense is trying to do to the defense.’’

Barnes and rookie Malcolm Rodriguez are pushing each other.

“That’s what the whole room is about, competition. Malcolm is really advanced for how young he is. We learn from each other, he’s a good player and pushes me to be better, that goes around for the whole room,’’ Barnes said.

Backup QB position still open

Coach Dan Campbell wants to see either Tim Boyle or David Blough step up win the backup quarterback position. Both took reps during Thursday’s practice in preparation for Sunday’s preseason game at the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

“I think what we need, is we need somebody to really take the reins, somebody needs to step up out of the two. I thought they both progressed last week,’’ Campbell said.  “Somebody needs to step up and run this offense, play efficient, play smart, take care of the football, get us first downs and when we get to the red zone score touchdowns for us.’’

Campbell said Boyle is likely to get the start on Sunday and will play with the starters. Blough started the second preseason game, a win at the Colts.

Jared Goff started the preseason opener. He will not play on Sunday no matter how much he pleads with Campbell to get playing time. He was at camp on Thursday, but didn’t throw during the team drills.

Returners named

Kalif Raymond will be the punt returner with Godwin Igwebuike returning kicks, according to Campbell on Thursday.

“At the end of the day in the preseason what you’re looking for is guys making explosive plays,’’ special teams coach Dave Fipp said.

“The good news for us is that there are a lot of positions on this roster that are really competitive. I think kick returning stuff is definitely one of those. We’ll see what happens in the last preseason game,’’ he added.

For returners there’s no way to know how much work they might get in the preseason games. It just depends on the flow of the game.

“I would say at the end of the day you only get a handful of reps for punt return, kick return,’’ Fipp said. “You don’t know how many times they’re going to punt the ball. We’ve punted the ball three times in two games. So if you’re playing against us and their returner got three looks, who do you put in. … There’s really no right way to do it.’’

Fipp said he values tape of past regular season games to spot a returner’s strengths.