Aug 28, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) prepares to throw the ball during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Stafford and the Passing Game
The first team offense had another strong outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Matthew Stafford was razor-sharp and connected on big play after big play. He was very accurate and really only missed two throws the whole night (both were within inches of being completions). This is a big year for Stafford, a lot of media and fans have already dismissed him. The NFL is about what have you done lately and Stafford has struggled over the past couple years, but people have been blind to some of the strides he has recently made. He made numerous impressive throws against the Jaguars and continued to show improvements from the wild gunslinger he used to be.
Stafford looks much more comfortable under center this year, he is confident and has shown some impressive footwork in the pocket. The chemistry he has with Golden Tate on quick passes is almost unfair at this point. On the play above Stafford delivers the ball right out of his backpedal, the ball comes out right as Golden Tate gets open over the middle of the field. Golden then changes direction on a “penny” (according to the announcer) to evade two defenders and gain some valuable yards after the catch. Stafford has done a great job in the short area passing game so far this preseason. With his quick release and insane arm strength, the ball explodes out of his hand as soon as he gets out of his backpedal giving the defense very little time to react.
Matthew Stafford has made a huge effort the past couple years to better protect the football, he reduced his interception total last year and was making better decisions throughout the year. He has played smart football this preseason and hasn’t thrown an interception or made any head shaking throws. This play above may look like a bad pass out of bounds but is actually a great decision. He puts the ball where only his receiver has the ability to make a play on the ball. It’s first down and both the underneath and downfield options are thoroughly covered. The Jaguars double teamed both downfield options and did a fantastic job recognizing the play design. Stafford was still able to find a window and almost complete the pass.
Stafford has also struggled dealing with inside pressure throughout his career. This preseason however he has done very well when he has been pressured, the strike he threw to Golden Tate against the Jets came with a defender bursting through the middle to hit him after he threw the ball. He showed poise and delivered a perfect throw. In the play above, Laken Tomlinson can’t hold up in pass protection and gets beaten badly. Stafford stays calm and steps into his throw with the defensive tackle right in his face. He gets the ball out in time and delivers a strike to Brandon Pettigrew. The pass is a little low but is a rocket right in between three defenders in the middle of the Jaguars defense. Plays like this are only an option because of Stafford’s arm strength, very few NFL quarterbacks can hit that window.
With the Lions lethal short area passing and their renewed run game, they will face a lot more defenders in the box this season which will set up Matthew Stafford with some deep ball opportunities. To this point in the game the Lions had picked the Jaguars apart with their short to intermediate passing game, they hadn’t really attempted any downfield throws and caught the Jaguars by surprise. Stafford saw Golden Tate in single coverage and had the time to step into his throw and deliver a strike. He threw the ball a mile in the air to give Golden time to track the ball in the air. Stafford and Golden time the play perfectly and the result is an easy touchdown. Golden Tate is a very underrated deep threat and has the ability to attack any portion of the defense. With how limited the Lions deep passing game was last season it is a very good sign to see them connect on a deep touchdown this preseason.
This was Stafford’s best preseason performance, he finished the night 11-15(one drop) with 173 yards and two touchdowns. He showed off his arm talent and improved football IQ on a number of different plays. He protected the football and made some explosive plays in the passing game. It was a great performance in his last extended preseason action.
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