Stafford’s Most Complete Offenses So Far
Let’s compare the projected 2020 offense to what I consider Stafford’s three most talented offensive lineups to date.
2011- Leading Rushers: Jahvid Best (390 yd, 2 TD), Kevin Smith (356 yd, 4 TD) Leading Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (1,681 yd, 16 TD), Nate Burleson (757, 3) Best Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew (777 yd, 5 TD) X-Factor: Titus Young (607 yards, 6 TD)
Analysis: The year that re-launched Matthew Stafford’s career (5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, both still career highs) featured an offense that was fast, explosive, had the best receiver in the NFL, and was gloriously unbalanced. Despite finishing 29th in rushing yards, the Lions ranked fourth overall in total offense. This was far and away Stafford’s best offense, but considering those rushing numbers, it’s hard to say it was complete.
2012- Leading Rushers: Mikel Leshoure (798 yd, 9 TD), Joique Bell (414, 3) Leading Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (1,964 yards, 5 TD), Titus Young (383, 4) Best Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew (567 yd, 3 TD) X-Factor: Titus Young, in the other direction.
After an exciting rookie season, Young spun completely out of control during 2012, even sabotaging a late red zone series in a close game against Green Bay. Young’s psychological state went from unpredictable to predictably erratic, he was off the team before the end of the season, and the promising second round pick was finished.
Analysis: The follow-up to the 2011 offense was pretty good on paper, but a total dud on the field. This is the season of ‘Statford’, where Stafford and Megatron set records for yardage, but couldn’t seem to get the ball in the end zone. After a mediocre first half record-wise, the bottom fell out over the final two months, with a 4-12 finish.
2013- Leading Rushers: Reggie Bush (1,006 yd, 4 TD), Joique Bell (650, 8) Leading Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (1,492 yd, 12 TD), Kris Durham (490, 2), Best Tight End: Joseph Fauria (7 touchdowns) X-Factor: Joique Bell catching passes (547 receiving yards)
Analysis: Due to the unexpected development with Titus Young the year before, another unexpected development further depleted a talented but thin set of receivers (Nate Burleson crashed his car while trying to save a pizza from sliding off the front seat of his car while driving. And people don’t think this team is cursed). As a result, Kris Durham was in way over his head as the number two receiver opposite Megatron.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, as this was the closest thing to a dynamic running back duo the Lions have had for ages. I put one year wonder Joe Fauria as the best tight end since he was red zone touchdown machine, and Brandon Pettigrew was quickly sliding out of favor in Detroit.
In 2014, the Bush/Bell duo was back but didn’t have the same punch as the year before. Golden Tate replaced Durham as the number two and had a Pro Bowl season, but there still wasn’t a viable third option. Rookie Eric Ebron wasn’t very good in the tight end spot (248 yards, 1 TD) but contributed far more than Pettigrew, whose time had clearly passed as a Lion.
Honorable Mention: 2015
In Calvin Johnson’s final season, Stafford was lights out for the final eight games, salvaging a respectable finish to a 1-7 start. Ameer Abdullah rushed for almost 600 yards, but fumbled five times. Theo Riddick caught 80 passes for nearly 700 yards behind Calvin and Golden Tate, and Ebron was decent with 537 yards and five touchdowns.