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O'HARA: Blough benefitting from spending a full offseason with Lions

David Blough was looking forward to the start of the Detroit Lions' offseason program in April so he could work to improve on what he'd accomplished in five starts at quarterback as a rookie in 2019.

That didn't happen.

There were no traditional offseason programs for the Lions or any NFL team because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional offseason programs – conditioning, workouts on the field and a minicamp – all were replaced by virtual programs, with coaches communicating with players via Zoom and other platforms.

The first time the Lions were together as a team was when training camp opened.

Blough had a learning gap to fill this offseason, stemming from his late arrival to the Lions.

Blough went through an offseason program, training camp and four preseason games with the Cleveland Browns in 2019 after signing as an undrafted free agent from Purdue.

He joined the Lions when they acquired him in a trade with the Browns after the fourth preseason game -- a 20-16 win over the Lions in which Blough threw his only to interceptions of the preseason.

Blough was learning on the fly last year – as a member of the practice squad for the first eight games, and later as the starter for the last five after Matthew Stafford had gone down for the year with a back injury.

Getting down to basics with Bevell and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan this offseason was invaluable for Blough.

"The spring was great for me," Blough said after Saturday's scrimmage.

"I missed all of those installs last spring and last training camp. I didn't get much of that – the way Bev calls the plays and how they detail the protections.

"They did a great job of teaching me on the fly (during the 2019 season)."

As much as he benefited from the virtual sessions, Blough wanted to get back on the practice field.

"Man, after the way last season ended, I knew there were opportunities for me to be so much better in those last five games," he said. "I knew that with a year under my belt now, and with a lot of learning that I got from Bev and coach Ryan, I knew I was going to improve.

"I wanted to come out and show they were right in believing in me and trusting me to be on the field. I wanted to make the most of those opportunities."

Blough looked sharp and comfortable with Bevell's offense in working in camp with Chase Daniel as the backups to Stafford, who looks ready to pick up where he left off when his season ended in Game 8.

The mental game is as important to Blough's progression as the physical part of playing quarterback. He spoke after a game last year about not calling the right protection on a play that ended in a sack and a big loss.

"It's critical," Blough said. "If I get something wrong, then it can lead to a sack. It can lead to a fumble. I feel like I have taken a step forward.

"That's what our job is."

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