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Thursday, July 24, 2014
James Franklin adjusts to the NFL game

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Franklin spent the spring participating but also watching, learning but also being forced to observe at the time he would likely want to be out there the most. As the undrafted rookie quarterback the Detroit Lions picked up following May’s draft, he entered offseason workouts understanding his opportunities would be limited.

He didn’t know for sure, though, there would be none at all.

For a player trying to win a spot as the No. 3 quarterback on the 53-man roster or the practice squad, Franklin had a bit of a detriment to making the team.

Ray Drew
Lions QB James Franklin scrambled a lot at Missouri, but is working on staying in the pocket in the NFL.
“I always assumed I wouldn’t (get many reps) and I kind of prepared for that,” Franklin said. “I knew that was kind of them, based off, it was up to me how many reps I would get as far as learning the plays and getting them down better so that way they felt more comfortable putting me in.”

There was so much to pick up. There was so little time to accomplish it. This was the biggest issue for the former Missouri quarterback, who, prior to May said he had never truly taken a five-or-seven-step drop during his time with the Tigers.

Missouri played a spread system, so everything he did came off a three-step drop or a little shuffle of his feet. There wouldn’t be a pocket created for him, per se, with the Tigers. These were things he had to learn fast, so he understood that until he picked them up, he wasn’t going to move past Dan Orlovsky or Kellen Moore into receiving actual snaps while those two quarterbacks were also learning the offense.

Franklin knew this would be an issue as he entered the league, even as he jumps into a system that will likely employ a lot of shotgun and some elements of the spread offense without the quarterback running.

Even though he didn’t actually take a meaningful offseason snap -- and Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Franklin will receive the majority of snaps during preseason games -- Franklin began to understand the importance of staying in the pocket to help the offensive line protect him.

The learning, though, went beyond improving and adjusting his footwork to drop back correctly. It also hit on the plays themselves.

“I’ve definitely been going over the plays over and over, reciting the plays, because learning the plays isn’t actually that bad,” Franklin said. “It’s just the long play calls that I have to be getting used to. That’s something I think I’ve gotten a little bit better at and hopefully I won’t worry about it too much so I can just go out there and play football.”

Franklin said reciting play calls is his biggest concern entering camp, in part because like the new drops he has never done it before. His offense at Missouri was run using signals and short calls. This was his biggest immediate transition during rookie minicamp and continued to follow him throughout the spring.

The spring was for learning, though. Now, he has to win a job.

“I wish we could have done some more of (play calls) in college to kind of prepare me, but I can’t make excuses now,” Franklin said. “I just have to work with what I have.”

And hope that what he has is good enough.