NFL Insider: Is Stafford ready to step up?

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2013 - 6:54 PM

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford brushes off talk that he is overrated.

hide

Matthew Stafford’s passer rating last season was a subpar 79.8.

Photo: David Richard • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco changed the way most of us look at him. Giants quarterback Eli Manning did it once and then did it again just to make sure it stuck.

Is it time we ask Detroit’s Matthew Stafford to follow suit and prove he’s an elite NFL quarterback before his bloated numbers mesmerize this fantasy football-crazed world any further?

No one has thrown more passes (1,390) for more yards (10,005) than Stafford has the past two seasons. But the Lions are 14-19 in that span, including a blowout playoff loss to New Orleans during the 2011 season.

In 2012, the Lions were the most disappointing team in the league at 4-12. Stafford came within 33 yards of back-to-back 5,000-yard seasons, but his touchdowns fell from 41 to 20, his interceptions rose from 16 to 17 and his passer rating was a subpar 79.8.

Yet the Lions gambled $53 million that Stafford isn’t just an average guy in a quarterback’s nirvana. With two years left on his rookie contract, Stafford got another three seasons added with a guarantee of $41.5 million, including $27.5 just to sign his name.

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski took a lot of grief in 2012 when he ranked Stafford as the 14th-best quarterback in the NFL. This year, Stafford fell to 16th behind Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Flacco, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo.

“What stood out studying Stafford was he was not as efficient under center as he was in the shotgun,” Jaworski said. “He seemed to struggle to read coverage as effectively. Too many forced throws. Overall, he just threw too many passes with poor balance and bad footwork, with a tendency to fall away from the throws.”

Stafford and Lions coaches have defended the knock on Stafford’s mechanics for over a year now. Stafford said Tuesday that he respects Jaworski’s analysis but doesn’t need it.

“I’m my own worst critic,” Stafford said. “Except for some of those guys are pretty bad. No, I’m just kidding. But no, I understand those guys have a job to do, they’ve got to talk, and in the offseason there’s not a whole lot to talk about, and I understand that.”

The next step in Stafford’s journey comes Sunday at home against the Vikings. Receiver Calvin Johnson, who had an NFL-record 1,964 yards receiving a year ago, remains the No. 1 target. But look for running back Reggie Bush, signed this offseason, to catch about 80 balls this season. He’ll be a great option for Stafford to dump the ball off to rather than consistently forcing things that aren’t there down the field.

Elite or not, the Vikings enter the game with a healthy respect for Stafford’s powerful right arm.

“He obviously has a very good rotator cuff and shoulder structure because he throws the ball about 1,000 times a year,” defensive end Jared Allen joked. “He’s a good QB. He obviously has weapons around him, he knows what he’s looking at, knows coverages, knows that offense, ball is out quick, he knows when to take a chance, he knows when to escape and keep plays alive down the field. He has a ton of strengths. … You throw for 5,000 yards, I don’t think you need to take a next step. You’re doing pretty good.”

Northern Intelligence

The Lions’ receiving corps will feature Patrick Edwards and Calvin Johnson out wide and former Viking Nate Burleson playing in the slot. But don’t overlook No. 4 receiver Ryan Broyles.

Coming off his second torn ACL in two years, last year’s second-round draft pick is ahead of the rehab curve. He played only 30 preseason snaps, catching two balls for 32 yards. Once he’s fully healthy, “chain mover,” as quarterback Matthew Stafford calls Broyles, will be a major option when Johnson is covered.

• • •

Being from the tough-guy town, it figures the Bears would have not a quarterback controversy but a middle linebacker controversy heading into the first game of Brian Urlacher’s retirement.

Rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic, impressive during the preseason, apparently has to step aside for a now-healthy D.J. Williams, a veteran on a one-year deal who missed the preseason because of a calf injury.

  • related content

  • Three NFL observations

    Saturday September 7, 2013

    Three observations …• Look out, Terrelle. Your Raiders head to Indy with their fourth starting left tackle (Khalif Barnes) since camp...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: H. Noesi 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 5 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 4
Milwaukee - LP: Z. Duke 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: D. Thayer 3
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 3 FINAL
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 1
Miami - LP: H. Alvarez 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Santiago 6
Colorado - LP: J. Nicasio 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 4
Atlanta 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close