Jake Rudock can't complain much about his timing in his brief NFL career. In one year he has made steady progress in personal status and on the Detroit Lions' quarterback depth chart.
Rudock has started this offseason as the front runner to be Matthew Stafford's backup. For Rudock, that's a rapid progression in four steps.
View photos from Day 2 of Detroit Lions OTA practices.
The first step: Entering the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Lions. Step 2: Signed to the practice squad after being released in the final cut last year. Step 3: Promotion to the 53-player active roster for the last five games. Step 4: Moving into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart with the front-office decision not to re-sign veteran backup Dan Orlovsky.
Taking over the backup job is not an insignificant promotion for Rudock, even with Stafford entrenched as the starter for what could be another decade – or longer. Rudock appreciates the opportunity, especially at such an early stage of his career.
"It's the NFL," he said after Wednesday's OTA workout. "There's always movement. The biggest thing is you're always trying to get better, especially me. I'm still young. Coach Callahan (quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan) says, 'Your job is to get as much better as you can every week, and not really focus on anything else.'
"As a competitor, as an athlete, you just want an opportunity to go out and help your team. However I can do that, I'd love to do that."
Rudock got some unexpected job competition when the Lions drafted quarterback Brad Kaaya of Miami (Fla.) in the sixth round. However, based on the comments of head coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions are happy with how Rudock has developed physically and mentally in the past year.
"It's not an easy offense to learn," Caldwell said Wednesday. "It's complex. It has many layers, and I think he's doing a good job in studying. He's a smart guy. He's gotten stronger.
"Physically, he's stronger. He's around 215 pounds. He's throwing the ball better. Not to say he was throwing it poorly before."
Since arriving in Detroit, Rudock has worked hard in the weight room to increase his strength. In Wednesday's practice it looked like the weight training has paid off. Rudock appeared to have more zip on the ball.
Rudock joked about how he approached his weight training.
"There's a place with a lot of weights in it," he said. "They tell me, 'Don't move. Keep moving stuff.' That's what I tried to do.
"One of the big things is staying healthy in this league. Obviously, adding some weight, adding some muscle to your body can help that. It goes with flexibility as well. Another big thing is trying to add a little zip, or adding different types of throws.
"All that adds up. You can't get too swelled up, though. You've got to have the flexibility to throw the ball with what got you here. It's not like I wake up overnight, and, wow, my arm's a lot stronger. I try to get the ball out on time. That's the big thing."
Rudock played the role of No. 3 quarterback all last season, even in the 11 weeks he spent on the practice squad. Stafford and Orlovsky ran the No. 1 offense during the practice week. Rudock ran the opposing team's offense against the Lions' defense to prepare for the upcoming game.
Even though he was not running the Lions' regular offense, Rudock said the coaches tried to match similarities in the opponents' plays with those in the Lions' playbook.
"One of the big things is, we try to make it like our offense," Rudock said. "It helps you. It helps the line get the right calls. It doesn't always match up.
"They don't tell us where to throw it. That's a good thing. Whenever I got in there, it was 'go play football.'"