LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Rudock continues to improve with solid debut

Posted Aug 13, 2016

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Monday's practice including Rudock's roster shot, Zenner's return to game action and more.

In Jim Caldwell’s first season with the Lions in 2014, he kept three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster out of training camp – Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore.

Last season, the number was whittled down to two with just Stafford and Orlovsky making the cut.

The Lions have until Sept. 3 to make that decision for this year’s roster. Current third-string quarterback Jake Rudock has certainly put himself into the conversation with his steady improvement through the first couple weeks of training camp, and a solid preseason debut in Friday’s 30-17 win over Pittsburgh.

If he continues on this upward trend, he could even give Orlovsky a run for the backup job, though that’s still a ways off.

“I was just thinking, ‘Hey, this is great, I get to play football,’” Rudock said of his mindset going into his first preseason game.

“Really not making too much of what it was, just fortunate to go out and play football."

Rudock led the Lions on two scoring drives after taking over the offense after halftime, and finished an efficient 8-of-11 passing for 72 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 120.3. He also rushed four times for 20 yards.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Rudock said. “Obviously, there’s stuff we need to clean up and get a little sharper at, a little more accurate with some passes, but you’re always going to have that, unfortunately. I thought we moved the ball pretty well as an offense.”

There’s still a few weeks to go before the front office and the coaching staff have to sit in a room and decide who the top 53 men on their roster will be, but Rudock certainly didn’t do anything to hurt his chances Friday in Pittsburgh.

“He does some things rather easily,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of Rudock. “But he has a long way to go.

"I think every week he’s going to learn something a little different ... all and all I think you’re going to see this guy is going to keep developing and keep maturing and keep getting better.”

PRESEASON RUN

Second-year running back Zach Zenner has begun this preseason right where he left off last year.

Zenner, an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State a year ago, led the NFL in rushing over the 2015 preseason. It helped him make the 53-man roster out of camp. He became an early contributor before injuring his ribs Week 6 and being forced to IR.

In his debut this preseason, Zenner had a couple nice runs and finished with 24 yards on the ground with three passes for another 32 yards.

He was the second running back in the game behind Theo Riddick (Ameer Abdullah did not play) and ahead of Stevan Ridley. He went for 12 yards on his first carry to pick up a first down, and was solid catching the football and gaining tough yards.

Zenner called his performance “OK” after Saturday’s short practice, and said he could have done some technique things a little better in pass protection.

Zenner runs with terrific vision and balance, and although he might not be flashy, he’s as steady as they come.

“He does what he always does,” Caldwell said of Zenner's play Friday night. “He’s a valuable member of our special teams, but he’s also a guy that’s very versatile from the backfield. He can run the ball. He’s got a knack that he can make you miss.

"He also has an uncanny ability to catch the ball out the backfield and find seams. He’s a well-rounded player. Very smart and makes very few mistakes.”

He’ll need to continue to be that player if he’s going win one of the last couple running back spots on the roster. Right now, he’s in a heated competition with Ridley, Dwayne Washington and George Winn.

ALWAYS COMPETING

The practice the day after a game is often light and more of a walkthrough than anything else.

After stretching, the team lines up in two big lines and runs short go routes catching passes from the quarterbacks.

Like most things involving the players, it always turns into a competition.

It quickly turned into one-handed catches with the offense vs. the defense. As an observer, it’s easy to see why receivers are receivers, and cornerbacks are cornerbacks.

Marvin Jones and Golden Tate snagged one-handed catches like stickem was on their hands. When Nevin Lawson and Darius Slay were up next, the ball bounced off their hand like it was a stone.

The defense did take some pleasure in the fact that Anquan Boldin dropped his one-handed attempt, however.