Jon Kitna took every snap at quarterback for the Detroit Lions last season. But what are the chances he will do that again? And if he does go down, then what? The team's back-up QB situation was precarious at the beginning of camp, but competition has turned it into a position of growth. Much more inside, including player, rookie and other camp notes.
ALLEN PARK -- All the optimism surrounding the Lions entering training camp -- that they could be the next New Orleans Saints, that they could go from double-digit losses to double-digit wins -- came with a big caveat.
Jon Kitna could not get hurt.
Kitna took every snap at quarterback for the Lions last season. But what are the chances he will do that again? And if he does go down, then what? The Lions traded Josh McCown in the off-season, leaving them without an experienced backup to lead a team that will need to win with offense.
The situation looked even worse early in camp, when Drew Stanton, a second-round pick this year, suffered a knee injury during the third day of practice, had surgery and went on injured reserve.
But things are starting to look a little better now -- not a lot, but a little. J.T. O'Sullivan has impressed the coaches, and Dan Orlovsky has responded well to the competition.
O'Sullivan is a journeyman. He is on his seventh NFL team, and he has never thrown a pass in an NFL game. But he is coming off a co-MVP performance in NFL Europa, and he has picked up Mike Martz's offense quickly.
Even though O'Sullivan signed July 10, little more than two weeks before camp, he showed good command and decisiveness immediately. Martz wanted to see what he had in O'Sullivan and give O'Sullivan a fair shot to compete with Orlovsky, a 2005 fifth-round pick who has had a year and a half in this system. So Martz gave O'Sullivan a lot of practice reps ahead of Orlovsky.
"I by no means feel 100 percent totally comfortable with every single thing," O'Sullivan said. "It's an ongoing process, but I feel like coming into camp I gave myself as much as I could an opportunity to compete with the situation I was in."
O'Sullivan entered the Lions' exhibition opener against Cincinnati after Kitna. He pressed at times, throwing an interception deep in Detroit territory and sending a floater across the field on another occasion. But he also made some plays, including an 83-yard touchdown to a wide-open Shaun McDonald. He finished 12-for-19 for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Here came Orlovsky. After watching O'Sullivan shine ahead of him in practice and in the game, he threw an awful interception that a 300-pound lineman trucked 81 yards for a score. But he regrouped and -- with help from special teams -- led the Lions back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 27-26 victory. He went 15-for-23 for 220 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"It's tough as a competitor to see your competition go out there and play well," Orlovsky said. "I think that is something that I have been really trying to grow with. ... J.T. is going to make plays and he's going to be good. The better he is, the better he makes me and the better he makes the team."
More Camp Notes
CB Keith Smith continues to have a strong camp. He picked off a pass in the exhibition opener and got some time with the first team.
DT Langston Moore continues to stand out and make a case for the fourth defensive tackle spot. He had a sack in the exhibition opener.
DE Corey Smith quietly gets the job done. He made a nice move in the exhibition opener, beating his guy to the outside and stripping the quarterback of the ball.
WR Shaun McDonald looks a lot like Mike Furrey did last season. He's a small, sure-handed guy from St. Louis who knows this system and can be more productive than people realize.
WR Troy Walters seems to be the favorite for the fifth receiver spot. He has been consistent, and his return ability helps him.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: J.T. O'Sullivan vs. Dan Orlovsky for the backup quarterback job is still the battle of camp. Stanley Wilson is still the starting right corner, but Keith Smith is getting a little more of a look. The Lions might have a tough time cutting down their backup offensive linemen.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:QB Dan Orlovsky -- He seemed to be out of favor, standing around and holding his helmet in practice while newcomer J.T. O'Sullivan got all the snaps. But he came back strong -- literally and figuratively -- when he rallied the Lions from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit in the exhibition opener against Cincinnati. The Lions won, 27-26.
ROOKIE REPORT: Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is just as advertised, a big, talented, play-making machine. ... Defensive lineman Ikaika-Alama Francis and linebacker Johnny Baldwin are raw, but they have opened some eyes with their athleticism. ... Cornerbacks A.J. Davis and Ramzee Robinson are works-in-progress, according to coach Rod Marinelli.
INJURY REPORT: Defensive end Kalimba Edwards (shoulder) and running back Aveion Cason (concussion) suffered minor injuries in the exhibition opener. Cason returned to practice right away. Edwards will need a day or two. ... Linebacker Teddy Lehman (shoulder) surprised coach Rod Marinelli with how quickly he returned to practice. ... The Lions denied a report that they had decided to keep running back Kevin Jones (foot) on the physically unable to perform list. He continues to rehab and shoot for the regular-season opener. ... Running back Brian Calhoun (knee) could play Saturday at Cleveland. ... Tight end Dan Campbell (elbow) is practicing and is expected to play one preseason game. ... Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) and wide receiver Devale Ellis (knee) remain on the PUP list. Ellis' injury is lingering. Rogers is expected back before the regular season.