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QBs coach Mark Brunell talks backup QB position, competitive practices & more

Mark Brunell looks at the challenges and options his players face in defeating the opposition through the eyes of a quarterback.

That's no surprise, given his role of quarterbacks coach on the Lions' high-powered offense, and his extensive background as a player in the NFL.

Drafted by the Packers in the fifth round out of Washington in 1993, Brunell played 19 seasons with five teams.

He played 193 games, with 151 starts, a 78-73 won-loss record and three Pro Bowl appearances.

Brunell is well equipped to speak on elements that help quarterbacks prepare.

In a group media interview at the end of the offseason program, we learned about backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld's role to Jared Goff. Among the other things we learned include the value of more competitive practices in the passing game and who a quarterback's 'two best friends' are.

A backup's plan: Sudfeld appeared in two games for the Lions without throwing a pass last season. The Lions signed him last August after he was released by the 49ers.

He had to play catchup to fill his backup role, and he did just that.

"He had to put in a lot of extra time," Brunell said. "That's his greatest quality. A really intelligent quarterback."

Sudfeld's contributions did not show up in the box score under his name, but they helped Goff have one of the best seasons of his career.

"He was great leading up to our games as far as working with Jared -- watching tape together," Brunell said. "On gameday he was excellent. It's very important for a starter to have a resource on the sideline -- a backup guy who just wants Jared to be the best he can be. It makes all the difference in the world.

"For Jared, he's like another set of eyes on the sideline, just staying dialed in. We have a good supporting cast. I love our system."

Practice tempo: There was a noticeable uptick in the secondary, a result of the Lions' signing established veterans in free agency.

"This spring was tougher than it was last spring," Brunell said. "There are some really good players on that side of the ball.

"It has been a challenge. It's tough to separate against those guys. It's been a fun part of this spring going against guys who have a lot of experience and a lot of talent.

"It helps us so much."

View photos from Day 8 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.

On the run: Goff will have new friends if the Lions' running game pans out at the level Brunell expects it will.

David Montgomery was signed as a free agent, and Jahmyr Gibbs was drafted 12th overall.

"A quarterback's two best friends are a good defense and the ability to run the football," Brunell said. "We have some guys back there who can run the football. They complement each other very well.

"We're looking forward to that. That's probably the thing I'm most excited about this year -- seeing those guys in action and taking our run game to the next level."

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