Judging by his performance in training camp and the preseason, second-year quarterback Dan Orlovsky might be ready to pay off on the Lions' investment sooner than originally anticipated.
When the team took him in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, it wasn't because they were looking for immediate help at quarterback. They felt the position was in good hands with veterans Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia competing for the starting job, but team president Matt Millen felt Orlovsky could be developed for value sometime in the future.
As it turned out, neither Harrington nor Garcia was the answer to the Lions' quarterback problems. During the off-season the team traded Harrington to Miami and let Garcia leave for Philadelphia as a free agent.
But Orlovsky, a lanky right-hander with an ideal disposition for a quarterback, has made significant progress in his second NFL season.
Although he is not threatening Jon Kitna for the starting job, he is making a strong bid - in competition with four-year veteran Josh McCown -- for the backup role.
Coach Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz felt strongly enough about it to bring Orlovsky in as the No. 2 quarterback and, after an exceptional week of work in training camp, Orlovsky came up with an impressive performance in the Lions' 20-13 exhibition opener against Denver.
He wasn't perfect. He guided the Lions to their first touchdown of the game, completing a 20-yard scoring pass to running back Arlen Harris, before -- by his own admission -- getting a little too excited and throwing an interception on the next possession.
In his four series before giving way to McCown at halftime, Orlovsky completed 6 of 8 passes for 54 yards and the touchdown. And the interception, of course.
"Obviously, I'd like to have that one throw back where I got kind of excited (on the first play) off a turnover," Orlovsky said. "I had Shaun Bodiford out there, I know he can run, I had single high safeties so I kind of got excited to throw a deep ball.
"It's a bittersweet thing because it's a turnover and you hate to have turnovers but it's one of the things where I learned a lot from it, more than if I'd completed the pass."
Marinelli was pleased with the performance but was not ready to make any declarations regarding the pecking order of his quarterbacks. Kitna completed 2 of 5 for 21 yards, setting up a field goal, in the one series he played; McCown completed 4 of 7 for 54 yards and guided them to a field goal and touchdown in the second half.
"All three quarterbacks came in and did some good things," Marinelli said. "They were all efficient. That part was good. Obviously, there's a lot of things to clean up."