Chaos Theory: Can Stanton Come Through?

Lions quarterback Drew Stanton (getty)

Former second-round pick Drew Stanton will have shot at redemption against Chicago. And it could very well determine his career.

Judging from coach Jim Schwartz's comments this week, you wouldn't guess that it's probably Drew Stanton's last season in Detroit.

"Drew can make every throw that we need to make," Schwartz said after naming the third-stringer his starter against Chicago on Sunday. "He can run every bit of the offense that we have.

"We're not going to limit anything with him. We expect him to go out there and lead the team and get us some wins."

Talk is cheap. Injuries to Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and backup Shaun Hill (broken finger) have forced Schwartz to play a hand he hoped to never divulge; not out of value, but shame. His comments are likely more for Stanton than anyone else.

Especially with a Bears' defense that most recently got done stripping the cape from Michael Vick.

Stanton has barely managed to hang onto his jersey.

One of the few leftovers from the Matt Millen regime, the former second-round pick has had an enigmatic career in Detroit. Playing only sporadically, he's notched mop-up duty en route to relative obscurity from his days as a scrappy gunslinger at Michigan State. Stanton's professional showcase has otherwise been trivial exhibition appointments.

Sitting within the final stanza of an initial four-year deal, Stanton remains Detroit's dirty little secret, and not the good kind. Like a neighborhood football team stuck with the straggler, the Lions have appeared to try anything but play Stanton.

Seriously, anything.

They even worked out two quarterbacks this week in hopes of finding someone, anyone, other than the local product. The coaching staff settled on the guy who has their clipboard dust in his fingernails.

Meet Drew Stanton.

Somehow the kid from Farmington Hills has managed to cling to the big leagues, weathering a handful of storms, awaiting some kind of chance. It may have finally arrived, which is good for Stanton; his career has been burning the midnight oil for almost two years.

"You try to make the most of your opportunities." Stanton told mlive.com this week. "You never know how big that window of opportunity will be, so try to make the most of every snap."


QB Drew Stanton will have a shot to redeem his career against Chicago
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Stanton's numbers since departing as a king of East Lansing are not impressive. He has barely completed over half of his pass attempts, collecting just two touchdowns while throwing seven interceptions. His only career start, a week 16 loss at San Francisco last year, was painful to watch. Stanton was embarrassingly ineffective, tossing three interceptions before ending the game benched with a quarterback rating of 31.9.

But there's also been the occasional spark, adding substance to the franchise's retention of a player that has been considered part contractual obligation, part desperate necessity.

Trailing 21-10 to the New York Giants in October, Stanton fielded a shotgunned snap behind his own 10-yard line on third down. Facing a Giants' rush that had just maimed fellow quarterback Shaun Hill, he avoided the rush, stepped into the pocket and rocketed a perfect spiral directly into double-coverage. Sixty yards later, Calvin Johnson walked untouched into the end zone.

On a potential game-winning drive later in that fourth quarter, he tried the same thing. The contest ended on an interception.

The apprehension isn't exactly unfounded.

But Stanton's professional career to this point is merely a microcosm of his style. He doesn't have the arm of Matthew Stafford, the automation of Shaun Hill, nor the billing of either of those quarterbacks. Even at Michigan State, his bigger plays were forged through chaos. His scrambling ability is effective, but not pretty. You can see his throwing motion in most any wannabe quarterback that plays football in their jeans.

Yet he's been able to stick. And that alone should say something about Stanton's fortitude, which although immeasurable, remains just as pertinent in this league as any statistic.

In Detroit, an argument can be made that he's never really had an opportunity. Stanton's professional career was born into bedlam, abused by former coordinator (and current Chicago offensive mastermind) Mike Martz, and it now appears to be on the ropes.

A player notorious for his gritty resolve will now be tested by an ironic twist of fate. And it could very well determine his future in professional football. In the big picture, Sunday's game is more important to Stanton than the two-win Lions; however, they'll rely on the other for the hope that there's more than just disappointment ahead.

Stanton has taken the bulk of first-team repetitions this week in practice, attempting to fashion some kind of chemistry with the teammates he has more often watched as a spectator. First-year receiver Nate Burleson said of Stanton's practice exploits, "I don't know if there's a misconception about him not being able to throw the ball, he threw some balls today that got some guys to open up their eyes a little bit."

Said Schwartz in response, "I think that Drew's always had that ability."

On Sunday, he'll have a chance to prove it. Once and for all.

Notebook:

  • It might be in the back of their minds, but Schwartz would prefer his team not focus on "the play" -- Calvin Johnson's game-winning touchdown grab that was ruled a drop in the season opener. The controversial play revoked a win from the win column, launched a media firestorm of contention and seemed to set into course a series of unfortunate events for Detroit in 2010.

    "That one play was a huge play in the game, obviously, but it didn't change the way the first quarter was played, the second quarter, the third quarter," Schwartz said. "Every other play in that game stood on its own. That's what the players are going through this week. They're watching that. They're watching a lot of other Chicago tape, but they're watching all those individual plays and they're looking at what we did well, what we can do better, what the matchups were – all those different things."

  • The team placed kicker Jason Hanson (knee) on injured reserve, effectively ending the veteran's 19th season. Schwartz said Hanson's knee is healing fine, but the pain hasn't subsided.

    "It will heal fine over the course of time but it's just one of those situations where he wasn't seeing any progress from a pain standpoint," said Schwartz, who expected Hanson back next year.

    The team will continue to use former Michigan State kicker Dave Rayner in the interim.

  • The Lions inked former first-round pick Tye Hill during the week. Hill, a cornerback, spent his first three years with the St. Louis Rams but was largely considered a bust.

    A 4.3 speedster, he played with Atlanta last year, but has remained unsigned since March.

    Detroit has had some luck with former high value, cast-off cornerbacks, including starters Alphonso Smith and Chris Houston.

    "He's a guy that fit a lot of things that we were looking for and he was in good shape," said Schwartz, who was concerned about injuries in the secondary. "He's a veteran player that can get up to speed pretty quickly."

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