Lions move forward with Hill at helm

Posted Sept. 13, 2010 @ 2:43 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Lions QB Matthew Stafford suffered a right (throwing) shoulder injury at the end of the first half in Sunday's loss to the Bears and likely will miss 2-6 weeks. Backup Shaun Hill entered the game and rallied the team to get in a position to win the game, but Calvin Johnson's final-minute reception in the endzone was not allowed and the Lions lost for the 21st consecutive time on the road. Head coach Jim Schwartz said Hill can lead the Lions during Stafford's absence.

The PFW Spin

Hill's first seven series were not pretty on Sunday: he went three-and-out on the first three, was intercepted on the fourth, lost a fumble on the fifth and went three-and-out on the next two for a total of nine yards gained in those seven series. But he finished strong and ended up 9-for-19 passing for 88 yards, a respectable total considering how cold he and the offense were.

On the first few drives after Hill came in, the Lions' body language was terrible; the team appeared to be in shock after losing Stafford. But Hill found a rhythm and got the team going, leading the Lions into a position to win the game. There's a reason he has a 10-6 career record as a starter: Despite limited physical skills, he's smart, tough and pretty fearless. He'll be mentally prepared for the Eagles on Sunday, plus any other games he starts this season.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wouldn't have recommended bringing Hill in this offseason had he not seen what Hill was capable of in three years together with the Vikings (2002-04). Hill can't thread the deep out like Stafford, and the receivers will have to adjust to the velocity difference in the QBs' passes. In training camp, the wideouts compared Hill's passes to changeups compared to Stafford's fastball. There are other differences, subtle ones such as cadence, that will be figured out the more reps Hill gets.

The Lions will lack a little firepower without Stafford, but they will not be in major trouble either. There are receiving options at wideout, running back and tight end, and all of them will be utilized in the coming weeks. Look for some plays that run to Hill's strengths — short, timing passes; intermediate crossing routes — even if the offense will not change, as Schwartz has said.

You also could see rookie RB Jahvid Best a little more active in the receiving game on screens and such, although he had a fairly heavy workload (19 touches) for his first NFL game.