Stafford vs. Pep: Let the Arms Race Begin

"The arms race, it won't just be that minicamp. It's going to be all of training camp. That's what that competition is at quarterback." - Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on Detroit's quarterback situation.

The arms race between veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper and No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford will begin during the Lions' last minicamp June 22-24.

To be sure, it will be only the beginning.

"The arms race, it won't just be that minicamp," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's going to be all of training camp. That's what that competition is at quarterback."

But talk of an arms race started with Schwartz himself, and it is significant that he already has defined the starting line.

The Lions have been active since the draft, from signing a couple of solid NFL veterans who grew up in Detroit and played at Michigan -- linebacker Larry Foote and offensive tackle Jon Jansen -- to claiming multiple players off waivers.

But the biggest story has been Stafford's development. He has been impressive since joining the veterans in organized team activities, and the Lions seem to alternate between showing their excitement and trying to contain it.


Matthew Stafford takes direction from Scott Linehan.
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In an interview with SI.com, Schwartz raved about Stafford: "So far, whatever the opposite of buyer's remorse is, that's what we have. We knew he had the terrific NFL arm. But we've found out his release is just textbook classic."

But the day that quote appeared on the Internet, Schwartz clammed up. If the Lions had buyer's remorse, then that would mean Stafford had not lived up to expectations. The opposite of buyer's remorse, then, would be that he had exceeded expectations.

Asked if Stafford had exceeded expectations, Schwartz gave a careful response that really didn't answer the question: "My expectations are high, not only for him but for just about every player. So it's hard to exceed my expectations."

It's hard. That doesn't mean Stafford hasn't. In a recent practice, he made several impressive throws, including one through tight coverage over the middle to receiver Keary Colbert.

"That's the sign of a young, great quarterback," Colbert said. "It was a small window. He has a lot of confidence in himself and in his arm to make that throw, and he showed it. He put it in there where only I could get it."

Schwartz also spoke highly of Stafford's release.

"It's one thing to have a strong arm," said Schwartz, who was Tennessee's defensive coordinator the past eight years. "Most NFL quarterbacks have a strong arm.

"But being a defensive coordinator, being a defensive coach my whole career, the guys who are hardest to play are the guys with the quick release. What happens is, you can't break on the ball.

"You can make it look like you're fitting it into spots because you cut the reaction time of the defense."

The Lions want to be careful to handle Stafford correctly. They know the Lions have hyped hotshots at quarterback in the past, rushed them and watched them fail.

Though Schwartz said the coaches would "really turn the microscope on" during minicamp, he reiterated that Stafford will start only when he's ready and the best quarterback.

"He needs to pass both of those," Schwartz said. "It doesn't matter if he's ready if he's not the best, and it doesn't matter if he's the best if he's not ready."


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