Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford is surrounded with talent in 2020

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

Going into the second year under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the Detroit Lions have done a good job of surrounding Matthew Stafford with talent.

If the Detroit Lions have any chance of becoming a playoff contender in 2020, it really comes down to one player: Matthew Stafford. Keeping the veteran quarterback upright and under center is the one determining factor of how the upcoming season will play out for the Lions.

A close second is surrounding the veteran passer with talented teammates. The Lions’ wide receiver corps with starters in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Danny Amendola is one of the strongest trios in the NFL.

Detroit spent the eighth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft on Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. After a rookie season where Hockenson showed flashes, it’s easy to see him improving in Year Two. Throw in veteran Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, and perhaps the top undrafted rookie free agent signing in the league in Hunter Bryant, and the tight end position in Detroit is stocked with talent.

A major area of concern for Stafford’s entire professional career has been his running game support. But Detroit heads into the new season with a two-headed monster in the backfield. Kerryon Johnson returns coming off two back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. Although Johnson did successfully come back from his latest knee injury to play the final two games of last season.

In April, the Lions used their high second-round draft selection to grab Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. Many believed Swift was the top running back prospect in this class coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Bulldogs. The duo of Swift and Johnson give Stafford the most talented running back tandem of his career.

Finally, there’s the offensive line. Since 2016, the Lions have spent two first-round selections on offensive lineman, presumably in an effort to protect and lengthen Stafford’s career. That’s resulted in improving play from both left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow.

That O-Line effort continued this offseason as Detroit opted to part ways with starting right guard Graham Glasgow and right tackle Rick Wagner. In their place, the Lions signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a massive five-year, $50 million deal. Detroit also used a third-round selection to draft Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson and a fourth-rounder on Logan Stenberg, a guard from Kentucky right after.

Now, it’s unknown whether the Lions’ newest linemen will be an upgrade over Wagner and Glasgow, but Detroit certainly felt they needed to make some changes to the right side of their offensive line. And who could blame them after watching Stafford injured on the sidelines for eight games in 2019, resulting in a 3-12-1 record.

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The Detroit Lions are certainly hoping that last year’s performance was a fluke. And with a healthy Matthew Stafford under center for all 16-games, and taking into account all the talent they have assembled around him, that the Lions will quickly bounce back in 2020 and shock the NFL.