ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Some of the selling points for Jake Rudock entering the NFL draft were his ability to run a pro-style offense, his intelligence and his ability to dissect plays and break things down on a board.
He had spent four years in two offensive playbooks at Iowa, which runs a pro-style system under Kirk Ferentz. Then, the Detroit Lions rookie quarterback spent a year under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, where he picked up another NFL system -- one that actually used NFL film to install plays throughout the year.
So now that Rudock is actually on an NFL team and working with in an NFL playbook, how much of an advantage those things can be is starting to be understood. One of the things Rudock was praised for during the East-West Shrine game was his understanding of play cadences and his ability to pick up the playbook being installed faster than the other quarterbacks in the room.
And so far with the Lions, he’s been able to grasp things as well.
“It’s similar to what you thought, but there’s obviously a lot that goes into it,” Rudock said. “The NFL is a whole other level, playing with some of the best football players in the world here and, yeah, there’s definitely a lot to keep learning but I’ve been fortunate to have to try and learn different systems.
“Like anything, it always takes time and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can right now, try to soak up everything that the vets will teach me.”
So far, that has mostly been in meeting rooms, where he’s been the No. 3 guy learning from starter Matthew Stafford and his eventual on-field competition for the backup role, Dan Orlovsky. He’s focused primarily on how they learn and what they are saying in meetings to try and understand how they see and pick up the game. Besides meetings, he spent time signing autographs at the same small table as Orlovsky on Wednesday night at the franchise’s annual Taste of the Lions event.
There, he didn’t learn as much about football as he did that almost everyone that approached them was either a Michigan or Michigan State fan -- and had no problem telling him who they rooted for.
“No one would ever say they went anywhere else,” Rudock said. “Nothing too bad.”
He said Orlovsky has treated him fine even though the two are both competing for the same gig -- and potentially only one roster spot. For now, Orlovsky is ahead in that race because Rudock is still picking up what it means to be a NFL quarterback and he’s doing it by watching Stafford and Orlovsky prepare.
Considering how big of a deal it has been that Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter be on the same page, it’s a good move for Rudock to be studying how Stafford sees the game. One of the bigger challenges for Rudock -- besides the obvious ones of speed and a rising talent level -- will be the terminology.
When he made the transition from Iowa to Michigan, one of the things he had to keep from doing was mentally referring to a route concept at Michigan by what it was known as at Iowa. Avoiding that helped to speed up the learning process -- and it could be something that would be helpful for him transitioning to the NFL.
While getting on the field next week will be another step, for now, it is just trying to understand everything he needs to learn so he’s not too far behind once he’s out there. When that happens, then a whole other set of learning begins as he realizes so many things are different as much as they may appear the same.
“There’s a ton. So much preparation that goes into it and coaches have different ways of reading, maybe, a similar concept,” Rudock said. “That’s something I have to take into account against all these different coverages and there are certain blitzes and I’m trying to re-adjust to get something blocked or play hot off something.
“Those are things that maybe takes you to that next level and it’s difficult because there’s so much that goes on and a lot of guys in this league know it so well. I’m learning. That’s the biggest thing.”