Leading up to training camps, SideLion Report previews position groups for the Detroit Lions, and the rest of the NFC North. Today, we look at quarterbacks.
It’s the most important position in the NFL, and perhaps in all of North American professional sports. For the Detroit Lions and the rest of the NFC North, their hopes largely rest on the performances of their quarterbacks in 2019, arguably the most talented group of signal callers out of all eight NFL divisions.
With the exception of the Minnesota Vikings, the division’s starting signal-callers are all homegrown talents, drafted in the first round and developed under more than one head coach. They are all facing pressure to perform at a high level this season, with the fate of some of their team’s decision makers possibly dependent on their success. Here’s what’s in store for them this season:
Key returning players: Matthew Stafford
Key losses: Matt Cassel
He’s started every single game for the Detroit Lions for the past eight seasons. He holds just about every significant passing record in club history. He’s about as tough as they come, playing through an array of injuries, including reports of broken bones in his back last year. Yet, Matthew Stafford remains connected to one primary statistic.
0-3 in the playoffs. It’s pretty simple at this point, Stafford just hasn’t been able to pull the Lions out of their decades-long postseason slump. He needs help. He needs to stay healthy. He needs 2019 to be a defining season for him.
Could that all come together this year? Maybe. He has what could be his best supporting group in the offensive backfield in years, possibly ever. Kerryon Johnson looks like the kind of tailback that could take a lot off of pressure of Stafford, allowing more balance and less reliance on him forcing the ball into tight or nonexistent windows.
At one point, Stafford was the king of fourth quarter comebacks. According to Profootballreference.com, Stafford had 15 such performances between 2014 and 2016, but just one in the past two seasons. It simply isn’t a sustainable way to endure, and the Lions would love to focus more on protecting leads in 2019 instead of having to constantly run uphill to retake them.
Keeping Stafford healthy is a must in 2019. When reports surfaced earlier this offseason of the aforementioned back ailment, it highlighted once again how fortunate the Lions have been to have such a durable signal caller over the years. It undoubtedly affected his performance last year though, and he had his worst season statistically in which he played in all 16 games. A similar season would doom Detroit.
The Lions have a respectable receiving corps, a radically reformed tight end group, an exciting young running back and a developing offensive line with some promising pieces. Should all of those cogs remain in working order, there’s no reason the for the Lions to sputter on offense. As usual though, they will need Stafford to play like one of the best quarterbacks in the conference to have any chance of making noise in January.
Detroit has been sluggish in developing young quarterbacks for the better part of the last decade, and they decided once again to forgo drafting one. They will look to a veteran to serve as Stafford’s understudy. Free agent signee Tom Savage has appeared in just 13 career games, all with the Houston Texans.
He did start seven games in 2017, and has passable arm strength. Regardless, if he takes any meaningful snaps after August, something obviously went horribly wrong.