Given the hype, Matthew Stafford has followed through -- so far.
Prior to the unofficial start of the regular season (training camp), there was a buzz around the team's Allen Park headquarters about Stafford's command of the Detroit offense. With a year under his belt, and an entire off-season dedicated to nourshing his growing chemistry with receiver Calvin Johnson, the former No. 1 pick had put everyone on notice.
Even if he didn't say it himself.
Against Pittsburgh on Saturday, the amplifying belief that Stafford would be dictating whatever he wanted to do behind his high-priced arm, rather than the tumultous opposite that was last year (see: 20 interceptions), seemed vindicated.
Stafford completed 8 of his 11 passes, including a touchdown toss to Johnson -- but it was that one particular pass that served as a microcosm for not only Stafford's progress, but Detroit's hopes as an offense behind him.
"When you are in command and dictating what you're doing to a defense, you are going to be throwing higher percentage passes," coach Jim Schwartz said. "When your shots are calculated and on your terms, they are going to be higher-percentage passes."
Stafford's previous toss, a dangerous end zone throw to Johnson under blanket coverage, let him know exactly what he needed to do next. And he did just that.
"That first one, I didn't throw him a good ball, but they were just overplaying the fade on him, big-time," Stafford said. "If they're going to keep playing him like that, I am just going to throw it to his back shoulder."
Commented Schwartz, "That was impressive. He came right back and noticed they were playing the same technique so he threw him a fade-stop. It shows what kind of command he's starting to have."
The play was actually originally a run. Stafford's audible led to the touchdown.
Stafford used five different receivers, including Calvin Johnson, on the drive.
Camp News and Notes (Compiled Courtesy TheSportsXchange):
- BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The Lions are going to cut a good running back; that much is certain. Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith are going to get most of the work during the regular season, which leaves three running backs and three fullbacks fighting for what could be three, possible four spots.
"The best way to put that competition at running back is we're open-minded," Schwartz said. "We're not going in saying this is exactly what we're keeping."
The Lions are going to give Best every chance to be the every down back. Smith, coming back gradually from offseason knee surgery, is a known quantity.
After that, it appears that veterans Maurice Morris and FB Jerome Felton are good best to win spots. For speedy RB Aaron Brown to beat out veteran DeDe Dorsey, he's going to have to show some flash on kickoff returns, which he has. Dorsey didn't help himself by fumbling inside the Steelers 15 on Saturday.
- OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Third year RT Gosder Cherilus finally pulled ahead of veteran Jon Jansen and got the start on Saturday.
- The starting offensive line is pretty much set, assuming the Cherilus solidifies his spot. But depth is still a problem. Manny Ramirez will probably back up both guard spots. Jansen is a solid back-up at right tackle. So far, Corey Hilliard is holding off rookie Jason Fox at the other tackle spot.
- Schwartz used Derrick Williams to return kicks and punts in the first half Saturday. Williams didn't fumble, which was his problem last year, but he fair-caught a punt inside the 5 and didn't make much of an impression. In the second half Aaron Brown ran back kicks and rookie Tim Toone punts.
- Williams, Toone, Dennis Northcutt, Eric Fowler, Contrevious Parks and Brian Clark are fighting for the two final receiver spots. Of those, Clark and Fowler have been the most impressive.
- PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Jahvid Best has shown thus far everything the Lions were hoping to see. He's quick, hits the hole hard, has good vision, great balance, runs excellent pass routes and has good hands. Also, he has been a quick study in grasping the offense, particularly in terms of pass protection. He had 29 yards in six carries Saturday and impressed the coaches with his ability to pick up blitzes.
- ROOKIE REPORT: Besides Best, DT Ndamukong Suh had a strong week. He didn't record a tackle or a sack, but he occupied blockers, which made things easier for the rest of the defensive line. DE Willie Young had five tackles against the Steelers. WR Tim Toone, the reigning Mr. Irrelevant, catches everything thrown in his vicinity. Still questions about his ability to get open at this level. PK Aaron Pettrey, subbing for rehabbing Jason Hanson, missed a 42-yarder in his only try. His kickoffs, though, are deep and lofty. OT Jason Fox has been playing through some pain in his knee, though he hasn't missed a practice.
- INJURY REPORT: Starting safety Louis Delmas (groin) and tight end Will Heller (back) returned to practice last week but neither dressed for the game. Rookie cornerback Amari Spievey (oblique) returned, as well. Receiver Mike Moore (shoulder) is expected back Monday.
- MLB Jordon Dizon (knee), out for the year; PK Jason Hanson (left knee scope), due back for season-opener; LB DeAndre Levy (back) day-to-day, DB Aaron Berry (hamstring), day-to-day; DE Jared DeVries (knee), day-to-day; S Ko Simpson (knee) and DB Jack Williams (knee) remain on PUP.
- Starting DT Corey Williams missed two practices (heat-related issues) last week but played Saturday.