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Caldwell excited about Jake Rudock's opportunity

About an hour before the start of every game last season, rookie quarterback Jake Rudock would be on the field going through a rigorous workout routine under the watchful eye of Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan.

It was similar to the kind of workout coaches and personnel people put quarterbacks through at their pro day. Rudock would work on various drops, throw in and out of the pocket, and go through just about the entire route tree.

Every week, without fail, that was Rudock's gameday routine.

"He had his routine he was going through, so he did develop and did work quite a bit in those areas," head coach Jim Caldwell said at last week's league meetings of Rudock's first season. "I think he made really good progress and I think he is the kind of guy that can keep moving forward. He's gotten stronger. We're excited about the opportunity he has."

That opportunity is to become Matthew Stafford's backup in 2017. The team moved on from veteran Dan Orlovsky in order to give Rudock "every shot to be the No. 2 quarterback," according to Lions general manager Bob Quinn.

"Yeah, Jake had a good rookie year," Quinn said earlier this offseason. "You know, he started off on the practice squad, had a really good preseason and we made the decision to kind of give him every shot to be the No. 2 quarterback. So in the offseason program, in the OTAs and hopefully into training camp, he's going to get every opportunity to earn that job."

Caldwell said at last week's meetings that the team will add a third quarterback to the roster this offseason, whether that be in free agency, the draft or after the draft remains to be seen. Quinn made the comment last offseason that drafting a quarterback every year or two is good business practice in the NFL.

When the Lions do in fact add another signal caller to the roster, the backup job still looks to be Rudock's to lose.

Stafford is going into his ninth season, and this could be the first year he has not had a veteran as the backup. It was Daunte Culpepper when Stafford was as a rookie in 2009, followed by Shaun Hill (2010-2013) and Orlovsky (2014-16).

The Lions drafted Rudock in the sixth round (191st overall) out of the University of Michigan. In the preseason last year, he appeared in all four games and finished 30-of-51 passing for 333 yards with four touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 96.3.

He was released when the team cut down to 53 players after the preseason, deciding to keep just two quarterbacks on the active roster, but was immediately signed to the team's 10-player practice squad. He was signed to the active roster for the last five games of the regular season, plus the playoff loss to Seattle, though he was inactive on gameday for all six weeks.

"He developed exactly like we thought he would," Caldwell said. "He's a smart guy. He studied. Oftentimes you find in that particular role that he served (third/scout-team quarterback) that there's a lot of research work that's going on in preparation for the next opponent.

"That you're a lot more involved in certain aspects than maybe what you think behind the scenes. So you get an idea to see how this guy prepares, what he prepares, what he sees and etcetera."

That prep work, along with Rudock's physical development of being in an NFL weight and dietary program over the last year, has led the Lions to believe he could be ready to be Stafford's understudy this season.

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