Could Matthew Stafford be the best quarterback in the NFC North this year?
The summer is the time for predictions and hot takes by all sportswriters. Some have decided that the Lions signal-caller is primed for a big, comeback year. “Is the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford going to be the best quarterback in the NFC North in 2020?”, that’s what we’ll discuss this week.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was drafted following one of the worst years of football in NFL history by any team. He was not drafted by a playoff team after one down year or another situation conducive to winning immediately. The roster had little talent outside of Calvin Johnson for him to lean on.
Fast forward to today where the Detroit Lions offense is full of weapons and where general manager Bob Quinn has provided some talent to block for Stafford, too, and you have a much different scenario.
Under former head coach Jim Caldwell, 2014-2017, the Lions flirted with winning the division title but could never seal the deal. The lack of depth, poor running game, inconsistent defensive performance, and coaching errors left them always a step too slow to overtake the Green Bay Packers, usually.
Quinn decided a coaching change would help to put the team over the top without discussing much regarding the growing pains of breaking in his new head coach, with no head coach experience, and converting the defensive roster to Matt Patricia’s New England Patriots defensive scheme. Injuries and lack of depth in key areas have put both Quinn and Patricia in the hot seat for 2020, as both men are likely a package deal if things do not improve drastically.
The Detroit Lions started off 3-4-1 in the first half of the year, despite having fourth-quarter leads in multiple contests; that can happen when your defense ranks 31st in the NFL.
The defense is still a work in progress as Cory Undlin has assumed the defensive coordinator duties after taking over for Patricia’s mentor, Paul Pasqualoni. His ability to hit the ground running and get immediate production out of his personnel may determine a lot of how 2020 goes for the team.
That being said, the offense has some continuity and has made some progress under Quinn and last year’s offensive coordinator hire, Darrell Bevell. Stafford was enjoying his best statistical year last year under Bevell prior to his back injury and subsequent deactivation.
The offensive line was upgraded in phases over Quinn’s tenure, with two interior linemen drafted this spring. Tackles Taylor Decker and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are both near their peak ages with center Frank Ragnow looking like he might be an All-Pro candidate in the near future.
Left tackle Taylor Decker is in the last year of his rookie deal after the Lions activated his fifth-year option but they face a big decision about whether to sign him past this year. Decker has been a bit inconsistent but usually performed well despite some injury problems. He has not played at a Pro-Bowl level but may ask for big money due to a league-wide shortage of good tackles.
The guards are where the uncertainty lies for the line; starters Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins are rotational players that are going to face competition from rookies Logan Stenberg and Jonah Jackson, who possess the physicality that Bevell is looking for. Tyrell Crosby has developed some, too, and figures to push for time at right tackle or reprise his role as the Detroit Lions’ primary swing tackle. The depth behind those men has improved, too.