Shaun Hill is probably the best backup QB in the NFL. I don’t say that lightly, there are a lot of talented, qualified backups in the league, but Shaun Hill encompasses all the traits that you expect out of a backup QB and more. If I were to tell you that Shaun Hill, backup Quarterback for the Detroit Lions and former starter for the Lions and 49ers, had the 12th highest career QB rating OF ALL TIME, would you question it? It’s absolutely true. He’s also the only player out of the top 30 that was never a full time starter. Now, you didn’t come here to gush about how awesome Shaun Hill is. You came here to learn about the Lions new Undrafted Free Agent Quarterback, Western Michigan‘s own Alex Carder. It’s important to mention Hill, however, since any of the three QBs after Stafford and Hill will be fighting for a spot as the team’s third QB, not a starter or even a backup. That said, the Lions have spoken before about wishing to develop a Quarterback, and the fact they picked up not one, but two Quarterbacks to compete with incumbent Kellen Moore. With a year under his belt, does Moore really have to worry about fending off a small school prospect who spent most of last season injured? After watching every game Kellen Moore has played in college and as a pro, and the same for Alex ACarder, I would say that Moore absolutely has to worry.
Comparing Moore to Carder statistically would be excruciatingly unfair after Moore’s record setting college career. Considering how vastly different the two offenses were (despite both being Broncos), it makes it even more difficult. A year ago, I wrote how fortunate the Lions were landing Kellen Moore from BSU. I downplayed his size, his arm strength, and poor pocket mobility because I believed that he would overcome those limitations with his superior football intelligence and drive to succeed, coupled with the time he would spend learning behind Shaun Hill. Thankfully, Dave swooped in and brought me back to earth with my expectations for the young passer. Dave proved the wiser in this, as Moore looked extremely out of his element in the preseason 2012. His smarts showed through as he was making the correct reads most times, but his physical limitations were glaring as his lack of NFL caliber arm strength led him to throw 2 interceptions and only a solitary TD. It was clear that without the talented BSU Offensive Line, wide open offense, and one multiple receiving threats who could get wide open every play that Moore would struggle in the NFL. Like many rhythm passers, things had to be just so or he was unable to make things work, and without exceptional athleticism he could not make up for any shortcomings when the plays broke down.
So how does Alex Carder measure up to what we have seen of Moore? Based on 2012 alone, there is nothing to be found that would impress you enough to think he could beat out anyone, even for a practice squad spot. As a fan of Western Michigan, I watched every game, but never as a critical evaluator, only as a fan. Going back and reviewing the games, it was painful to see how inept many of the Broncos were during the 2012 season. Prior to a finger injury mercifully ending his season, Carder had thrown for less than 60% completions with a pedestrian 13/10 TD/INT ratio. Despite the emergence of true Freshman Jamie Wilson, Carder clearly missed his top target from the previous two seasons, Jordan White. The entire offense as a whole struggled, but I feel Carder struggled less than the rest of the team. With Bill Cubit calling vanilla play after vanilla play, an offensive line that seemed to hold a grudge against the young signal caller, and an entire offense full of players expected to break out that simply underwhelmed, Carder’s season seemed doomed from the start.
However, Carder is a good athlete, and the upside based on his physical makeup is unmistakeable watching him on film. He was limited by the WMU offense, that called for a lot of designed plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, and his numbers were augmented by the large number of passing attempts and focus on a single receiver. Carder has a good arm and a quick release, though his tendency to gamble has gotten him into trouble a number of times especially when plays start to break down. Carder was a vocal leader at WMU, and is by all accounts an intelligent, high character player. So let’s recap quickly. Large number of passing attempts, good arm, quick release, consummate gambler, tendency to find ways to get the ball to his primary weapon early and often. Hmmm…
In the entirety of Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz’s time in Detroit, the Lions’ 3rd Quarterback has mirrored their 2nd in terms of skillset and playing style. The Lions kept Drew Stanton to play behind Shaun Hill and then picked up Kellen Moore in 2012. Both players had limited arm strength, but were rhythm passers so the falloff from Hill to them would be minimal in terms of play calling. 2013 is the first time the Lions have picked up a QB whose skillset and playing style is similar to their STARTING Quarterback. I can’t help but think Matthew Stafford’s increased leadership role and maturity have something to do with this move. In the past, the Lions have planned their 3rd QB around the idea of having a minimal dropoff from HILL. If the Lions are to truly groom a Quarterback looking to the future when Shaun Hill will no longer be a Lion, it only makes sense to groom someone to be a #2 Quarterback, not a #3.
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 215 lbs. 40 Time: 4.91
Interesting Note: In 2011, against Toledo, Carder threw for 548 yards and 7 TDs with no interceptions…WMU lost that game 66-63.