Lions' progress could be hindered by quarterback situation

The Detroit Lions once had what looked like an ideal insurance policy where they need it most: quarterback.

The operative word here could very well be "once."

After it was revealed that backup Shaun Hill recently underwent back surgery, it's easy to wonder whether the Lions' quarterback situation is a strength or a potential cause to derail the high hopes for significant improvement.

Until he proves otherwise, incumbent starter Matthew Stafford is a constant injury risk. He is coming back from shoulder surgery, and questions linger about his ability to remain in one piece through a 16-game season.

The Lions have drawn rave reviews for a 2011 draft in which they enhanced an already dominant defensive interior by making Auburn tackle Nick Fairley their first-round pick. Their passing attack has the chance to become extremely dangerous with their second-round choice, Boise State wide receiver Titus Young, offering a big-play complement to one of the NFL's biggest playmakers, Calvin Johnson.

But someone has to be able to consistently get the ball into the hands of Young, Johnson and the rest of the Lions' pass-catchers. If Stafford is healthy, there is reason to believe he would do so effectively enough to allow the Lions to be a contender in 2011. If he isn't, all hope would not be lost if Hill was under center. In 10 starts last season, Hill overcame a broken forearm and finger to throw for 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

But the "if" has gotten a little bit bigger. Although Hill was throwing passes to teammates less than a week after surgery and told the Detroit Free Press that he would be physically ready to play in a game in four to six weeks, there still will be questions about his status until he shows he can hold up to contact.

That, of course, will depend on when there will be football-style contact in the NFL again.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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