Stafford is key to Lions defense

August 26, 2010 by Tom Ferda 

Previously published in Detroit Free Press August 2010.

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based NFL writer. His material has been published in several newspapers and magazines including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press, Washington Times and Men’s Book. For inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com

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This NFL preseason we keep hearing about how the Detroit Lions defensive line has shown vast improvement from last stafford passingseason and will be depended on to carry the team’s questionable squad.

If you watched either of the Lions’ first two preseason games, it’s clear this group is aggressive and will be wreaking havoc, collapsing pockets and causing Percy Harvin-type migraines for their opponents.

Coach Jim Schwartz worked overtime to revamp the front four that includes newly-acquired veterans Kyle Vander Bosch and Corey Williams as well as No. 2 overall draft pick, Ndamukong Suh. This unit will be a force no doubt but the key player to keeping points off the opponent’s board this season is actually on the offensive side of the ball; his name is Matthew Stafford.

Stafford, who ranks near the top of the Top 50 Athletes salary list, has shined thus far in the preseason and has done well showing off Detroit’s new offensive weapons like wide receiver Nate Burleson, rookie running back Jahvid Best and tight end Tony Sheffler. With wideout Calvin Johnson thrown in the mix, Stafford has been showing great poise this preseason and opting for longer, structured drives as opposed to looking for the homerun ball to Johnson.

Yeah, it’s preseason and we know the Lions were 4-0 in preseason the same year they went on to their Matt Millen-infested 0-16 record but the good news is, Stafford is orchestrating 10, 11 and 14 play drives this preseason and that may be the key to this team’s success.

If Stafford can learn to utilize the new two tight end formation the Lions are implementing and control the ball and clock, keeping the team’s sieve-style unit off the field, expect these 2010 Lions to compete.

The Lions’ defense is suffering some significant personnel losses including the season-ending injury to linebacker Jordan Dizon and the nagging groin injury that has severely limited second-year standout Louis Delmas. Not keeping veteran tackling machine Larry Foote who wanted to stay in Detroit may come back to haunt the Lions, especially after the Dizon injury

Over the past few years opposing quarterbacks have feasted on Detroit’s defense making career days out of what should have been ordinary Sundays.

I don’t expect to see embarrassing opening game plays like the 60+ yard bomb that Matt Ryan smoked the Lions’ defense on in his first play of his NFL career or the multi-career-days so many running backs have put up against the team’s former defenses, but regardless, there is still a lot of work to be done and that’s why Stafford is the key.

Stafford has brought hope to Detroit and their loyal fans and thus far is showing he can handle carrying the team on his shoulders. Question will be, can he maintain ball control and keep the team’s demise off the field.

Copyright ©2010 Tom Ferda

Contact Tom via email: tom@tomferda.com

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