The Lions entered the offseason with a goal of helping quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last year, hoping more weapons, better health and another year of experience would lead to a big leap in his second NFL season.
After the 2009 season ended, coach Jim Schwartz was asked to categorize Stafford's progress. This was the first thing he said: "We need to do a better job of supporting our quarterback."
The Lions have added offensive weapons like wide receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler and running back Jahvid Best, while bolstering the defense with linemen like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh.
"Now all of a sudden it's not just about the quarterback," Schwartz said in an interview on ESPN Radio. "He can hand it off to a Jahvid Best, and he can go 70 yards for a touchdown. He can throw a short pass to Nate Burleson, and he can go a long way with it also. And then defensively, if we can stay in games and not have to play catch-up, then that's going to help a young quarterback also."
Stafford suffered three injuries as a rookie -- knee, shoulder, shoulder aggravation -- and threw 20 interceptions. But Schwartz pointed out all three injuries came when the Lions were trailing in the fourth quarter and many of the picks came when the Lions put Stafford in bad situations.
"It was basically taking hits because he was trying to do something that he shouldn't have to do being down 17 points with four minutes left or something like that," Schwartz said. "So staying healthy's important for him, and that will help him take care of the football. A lot of our turnovers occurred on third-and-extra-long, and then in the fourth quarter of games when we're trying to play catch-up.
"So if we can play with the lead a little bit, improve our defense, I think we can help Matt out."