In Hill They Trust; Lions Back Replacement QB

No Stafford? No problem, according to anyone you ask in Allen Park. The team is backing second-string quarterback Shaun Hill, who might not have the arm of Matthew Stafford, but seems to have everything else. News, notes, and more inside ...

The Lions insist that their offensive game plan for their home opener Sunday against the Eagles would be the same whether it was Matthew Stafford or Shaun Hill at quarterback.

But the fact is, Stafford has a second degree separation in his right shoulder and Hill is starting; and to suggest that Hill has the same laser delivery, the same ability to stretch a defense vertically would be ridiculous.

"Nothing changes," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "Shaun has a gift of making everything work. His background in this system with me helps him as does the fact that he's been here through the summer and through preseason adjusting to working with these guys here. He's very comfortable in what we're doing. This isn't his first rodeo."

Nobody is doubting his savvy and experience. Hill played in Linehan's system for three years in Minnesota before going to start 16 games for San Francisco. His .625 winning percentage is still the third highest in 49ers history. So, yes, he knows the system.

"Shaun's got a lot of trust in that locker room," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "They know what kind of quarterback he is and I think the players respect him."

There's no question about that, either.

Listen to center Dominic Raiola: "Shaun is more than capable. He's started in this league. He's played in big games in San Francisco and he's won. You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially not a franchise talent like Matthew, but in this position, there's no better guy to have back there than Shaun."

It also helps that this is Week 2, and Hill hasn't had to sit on the shelf and run scout teams for several weeks. As Linehan said, he's had active duty running the offense from the summer through preseason. Plus, he played the entire second half against the Bears Sunday and engineered what looked like a game-winning drive to everybody except the game and video replay officials.

"The more experience you have the better off you will be; that certainly helps," Hill said. "It also helps that I've played in the opener the last three seasons. This will be my fourth straight. And I am only a week away from running our offense all week in practice instead of the other teams' -- all of those things are beneficial for the situation we're in."

Experience, football IQ, leadership, teammates' trust, Hill has all of that. What he doesn't have, though, is Stafford's arm strength.

"There aren't many people who throw the ball like Matthew, from a velocity standpoint," Linehan said. "But Shaun gets it done in a different way while running the same plays."

We'll see about that. Perhaps the Lions ought to take receiver Nate Burleson's suggestion.

"If anything maybe become a little more aggressive," he said. "Go out there and throw the ball and do what people don't expect you to do. People may say, 'Oh, you have your No. 2 quarterback in and you might try to run a little more.' But I say give Shaun free rein and let him do what he does best, and that's throw the football."

SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series 13-12-2. Detroit has lost the last five. The last time the Eagles came to Ford Field, they laid a 30-13 beating on the Lions. It was worse the last time the Lions traveled to Philly - that was 2007 and the Eagles won that one 56-21. The Lions haven't beaten the Eagles since 1986.


  • It has been widely reported that Matthew Stafford has a second degree separation in his right shoulder, but coach Jim Schwartz won't disclose any diagnoses or recovery time. "We have a really good idea (about the extent of Stafford's injury) but we're not going to share it," Schwartz said. "We are starting Shaun Hill on Sunday and we'll see what happens after that. We feel confident in our evaluation. But we are not going to comment on what our doctors tell our players and we're not going to comment on the results of an MRI. That's just the way it is."
  • Stafford got a second opinion from specialist Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday, and the diagnosis is apparently the same as it was on Monday -- no injury to the labrum or the rotator cuff. That's why the Lions are taking it week-by-week with Stafford, which is far from the worst-case scenario.
  • Stafford, terse and uncooperative with the media on Monday, was in a better mood on Wednesday. He walked onto the practice field Wednesday morning without a sling or any other kind of immobilizing device. When one of the Lions' staffers asked if he was ready to play, Stafford said, "Sure," and then made a throwing motion with his left arm.
  • The Lions laughed off speculation that they got a competitive edge on the Eagles because the NFL put a microphone on the Eagles center for the televised game against the Packers. The theory was they could pick up their calls at the line of scrimmage. "When we are at Ford Field we feel like the crowd should be so loud we couldn't hear anything the center is saying any way," Schwartz said. C Dominic Raiola wishes he could wear a microphone: "If I knew that I'd start making some messed up calls," he said. "I would start calling all kinds of stuff."
  • BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Number of solo tackles by DE Kyle Vanden Bosch Sunday.
  • Plus-5 -- Lions' special teams turnover margin since 2008, best in the NFL.
  • 145 -- Consecutive starts by OT Jeff Backus, most among active offensive linemen.
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "I didn't feel the need to pick the team up (after the loss to Chicago). The team knows how it played. They know the mistakes they made. They know what they did well and they know what they have to do better in order to win this Sunday. But we didn't spend any time feeling sorry for ourselves in here." -- Head coach Jim Schwartz.

Lions Report Top Stories