Armed with only an index card and a sharpie marker in hand, Max DeMara is heading to training camp and taking you inside the huddles.
Perhaps the most important talking point of the offseason for the Detroit Lions is the reinvention of Matthew Stafford. There hasn’t been a single meaningful down played, but already, the Lions’ quarterback looks to be ahead of the curve.
Thursday, while watching Stafford the closest as he led his offense through drills, there was a noticeable change in his demeanor and confidence. Additionally, there looks to be many great strides in the improvement of his often erratic mechanics. Last season, all of the above elements were severely lacking.
Thus far, Stafford looks to have much quicker footwork and an improved arm angle. That’s allowing most of his passes to not wobble immediately after he throws them. He put beautiful touch on a pair of passes to Kevin Ogletree, floating one pass for what would have been an obvious over the shoulder touchdown.
Over the middle of the field, Stafford seems to be leading his receivers better, letting the ball find their hands and bodies more accurately. He’s able to hit more players in stride instead of forcing them to reach for the ball leading to deflections.
The biggest change, however, can probably be seen in Stafford’s eyesight. Coaches have made the eyes an emphasis, routinely shouting “eyes, eyes” as Stafford drops back in the pocket to look off his options. He looks more confident with regards to vision, keeping his head up and surveying the field well.
All of this has helped Stafford’s attitude. It seems he’s in much better command of the offense, and knows what’s expected and what to do. On the onset, it appears as if working with Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter has helped. Each have been around winning quarterbacks, and know how to prepare one for success.
This season, as the Lions try desperately to right the ship with their franchise quarterback, there seems to be an obvious plan to do so, and Stafford himself might finally have been given the proper tools to succeed.
Bonamego’s Box. Since their horrible 2011 and 2012 seasons featured many special teams breakdowns, coach John Bonamego has taken an active role in trying to help fix things. For the second straight year, he’s on the field routinely using a sound box to direct traffic. There’s always a situation to practice, too. Thursday it was a punt formation following a safety. It’s one thing to show players, but to physically instruct them is another. Detroit’s special team formations are getting cleaner and more crisp thanks to Bonamego’s loud reinvention of coaching.
A Word On Durham. Though it’s been en-vogue for many to place Kris Durham on roster cut watch this camp, it seems fair to assume the wideout will be involved again in 2014. His big body and height is an asset to the passing game, and he often works with the first team unit. Moreover, he has a good relationship with Matthew Stafford, having been in many game situations with him recently. Though there’s depth at wideout, don’t bet on Durham to be the one going anywhere.
Going Green. Jonte Green had another nice day with a solid pass break up during one-on-one drills. Detroit did sign veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, but the elder-statesman will have to make up plenty of ground on the likes of Chris Greenwood, Aaron Hester and Green, all of whom have been very impressive lately. After injuries stalled him last season, Green looks to be taking leaps from where he was as a rookie, which as most people remember was fairly solid.
Jed’s Special Talent. Often times, one might wonder what would happen if long-snapper Don Muhlbach happened to go down during a game. For that, there is an answer. Most people probably wouldn’t realize fullback Jed Collins has the ability to long snap as well, as he was doing to help warm up punters on Thursday. It’s just another reason Collins probably has the inside track to making the roster.
Webster’s World. Defensive end Larry Webster is even bigger in person. While chatting with Webster, I noted to him just how massive he was. Naturally, he merely shrugged off my astonishment with a laugh and a grin (he must get that a lot). Still, when someone says a player has an NFL body, they have to be talking about someone like Webster, who is long, tall and massive, plain and simple. He could be a terror off the edge, and a draft steal considering his relative obscurity at Bloomsburg.
Number To Note: 2, the amount of passes Matthew Stafford had hit the turf on Thursday afternoon. It would have been three if not for a remarkable catch by a back-up tight end (more on that later) but still, the accuracy was a good sign from the quarterback, who is doing all he can to give his wideouts a chance to catch the ball and run this season. Most passes were right on point.
Play Of The Day: With Calvin Johnson not partaking in drills, the opportunity existed for someone else to turn some heads. Rookie tight end Jacob Maxwell did just that, making a fine catch off a deflected pass to save an incompletion. The ball changed direction at least twice, and Maxwell dove to save it before it hit the turf drawing plenty of excitement from the team and crowd.
He Said It: “I think the kid has potential to be good.” —Rodney Austin. I asked Austin, a guard, his thoughts about fellow offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas, a young man who’s been turning heads plenty this camp both with the staff and the team. According to Austin, the sky’s the limit for the massive young Lucas, an undrafted free agent tackle out of Kansas State who’s been seeing plenty of meaningful reps lately. Even fellow players could see him making a positive impact.
Laugh Of The Day: Don’t let anyone convince you that there isn’t palpable pride when the offense and defense scrimmage. Cornerback Cassius Vaughn was covering Patrick Edwards in the slot and forced an apparent incompletion from behind. Then, a flag came in late, to the astonishment of the defensive sideline. Nearly the entire defensive side groaned, and began to playfully ride the official for making what they thought was the improper call. The official just laughed it off.