Can Matthew Stafford build off last season’s start and have a career year for the Detroit Lions?
After starting the first eight games of the 2019 season impressively, Detroit Lions‘ quarterback Matthew Stafford had his season ended prematurely due to a serious back injury. Though initially hopeful that he could return for the last games of the season, Stafford would eventually be placed on the injured reserve list, officially ending his season.
Over those eight games, Stafford completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Extrapolating this out to 16 games, Stafford was on pace to throw for 4,998 yards and 38 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions.
After having a second offseason to digest the new offense and get completely healthy, Stafford could very well end up performing at the highest level of his career in 2020. Arguably, his best, or career, year to date was almost 10 years ago in 2011.
In 2011, Detroit finished second in the NFC North after choking away the division at the end of the season. Sadly, the Lions could not defeat their playoff foes, the New Orleans Saints, and ended up losing 45-28. That year, Stafford completed 63.5% of his passes and threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
Despite the impressive year, he could carry the Lions to victory in the playoffs due to a leaky defense and an offense that made too many mistakes, including a couple of his own. However, 2020 could see Stafford raise his game to new heights and finish with a career year of his own.
There are multiple reasons for this, but let’s delve into the possibly the biggest reason first; the offensive scheme and playbook. For years, the Lions forced Stafford to limit his game-changing, gunslinger moments in favor of more controlled, less risky passes. However, this had an adverse effect on his game and inadvertently stunted his growth as a quarterback.
He went from one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game who could make a jaw-dropping play at any moment to a game managing, check-down machine who only occasionally showed the flashes of what he once was and might be once again.
However, after bringing offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford was finally able to get back to his strengths and the root of what made him a top quarterback in the league. Fans were able to see him rip throws downfield on regular occasion once again, tearing defenses apart game after game.
Why Matthew Stafford Stafford could jump to new heights in 2020
Having almost a full year to rest and recover should do wonders for his health, and having that time to fully understand the playbook will only make him more dangerous. Moving on, there’s another reason that Stafford could jump to new heights next year.
That reason is the upgraded talent around him. Stafford has a bounty of weapons, including a do-it-all receiver in Kenny Golladay who is quickly rising up the ladder of best wide-outs in the league. After him is underrated, but ultra-reliable Marvin Jones Jr. and clubhouse leader Danny Amendola.
Following them is solid, but unspectacular depth in speed specialist Marvin Hall and young receivers Travis Fulgham and Quintez Cephus. After the wide-outs, there is second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson, who showed flashes of brilliance his rookie year but will need to be more consistent in year two.
Aside from those receiving weapons, Stafford also has a decent offensive line, anchored by center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker. After those two are right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who while unproven has shown some promise, and left guard Joe Dahl, who has steadily improved since his rookie year and could develop into a reliable interior lineman. The biggest unknown is at right guard where a couple of rookies or a handful of middling veterans could win the job.
If Ragnow, Decker, and Dahl all perform how they did for most of 2019, then the center and right side of the line should be set. The right side of the line is the biggest question but has potential.
After that, Stafford also got a new weapon out of the backfield in former Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. Swift is a nasty runner who can plant and change direction on a dime. He can also be an elite option out of the backfield if given the chance. All in all, Stafford has what could be the best overall group of weapons at his disposal of his career along with an offensive line that has a solid floor and an exciting ceiling.
Given his aggressive offense and loaded weapons, Stafford is all set to have what could be the best year of his career. While his completion percentage likely won’t be above 67% due to the aggressive nature of the play-calling and his play-style.
However, fans could easily see Matthew Stafford throw for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns while keeping his interceptions to a minimum. It is going to be an exciting year for Stafford and he could once again reset the record books in Detroit.