Stafford still made 10 starts as a rookie, but his practice time was severely limited after October. And coupled with nagging injuries to No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson that began in training camp, the offensive trigger men barely had time to get a feel for each other in 2009. Nurturing the chemistry developed in their first full offseason together will be a priority in camp for the Lions.
"He's communicating with the receivers more; I think that's big," general manager Martin Mayhew said of Stafford. "And he's developing a good rapport with Calvin, which is important."
He's starting to do the same with three other new pieces in rookie running back Jahvid Best, receiver Nate Burleson and tight end Tony Scheffler. Training camp also will be the first chance for running back Kevin Smith and tight end Brandon Pettigrew to join team drills after undergoing ACL surgeries last December.
Louis Delmas, coming off an impressive rookie season, looks like an emerging young star at free safety. But finding a starter opposite him is imperative if the Lions are to capitalize on the offseason upgrades in their front four.
"We need someone to step up and really grab hold of that position," coach Jim Schwartz said.
C.C. Brown was signed as a free agent after getting cut by the Giants. And though he had his struggles in New York, he could be the choice once he's comfortable in the new scheme in Detroit. Jonathan Hefney, a CFL rookie standout last fall, also got a long look with the first unit in OTAs this spring. Ko Simpson, Marvin White and Marquand Manuel all are back after starting at different times last season, but Simpson is still working his way back from microfracture knee surgery in January.
The Lions traded for a three-year starter in Chris Houston, who'd fallen out of favor in Atlanta, and he was paired with free-agent signee Jonathan Wade for most of the offseason as the first-team tandem. That could change with the recent signing of veteran Dre' Bly, who joins holdover Eric King and rookie third-round pick Amari Spievey in competing for playing time.
But what'll be interesting to watch in camp - and especially in preseason games - is how much more aggressive the Lions are in utilizing press coverage. That was a point of emphasis all offseason, and the moves the team made were designed to add cornerbacks with more speed and better man-to-man coverage skills.
"If you let a receiver run free, he'll find a way to beat you," Wade said. "In press, you're right there with him and get ‘involved' with him. It's a more aggressive way to play."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
If the Packers are going to make a run toward the NFC championship and a berth in the Super Bowl, they can't have a repeat of the league-high 50 sacks Rodgers endured last season. Rodgers still managed to throw for career highs of 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns with only seven interceptions and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
All of the pieces seemingly are in place up front to better protect Rodgers — he says the offensive line is the deepest in his six years with the club. Yet, the Packers still need to solidify their starting five.
Up for grabs is left guard between incumbent Daryn Colledge and good friend Jason Spitz, who missed most of last season with a back injury.
The Packers mustered 37 sacks in 2009 after having only 27 the previous season. Aaron Kampman accounted for more than a fifth of those with 13 sacks in the two years.
Kampman isn't a Packer anymore, however, after a decorated eight-year career that included two Pro Bowl selections and 54 sacks, including 40.5 since 2006. Kampman bolted as a free agent for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have him back at defensive end after his lukewarm move to outside linebacker last season.
Green Bay is leaning toward Brad Jones to succeed Kampman on the left side, but Jones lacks the pass-rush pizzazz needed to divert some of the opponent's attention that will be given to Clay Matthews on the right side.
The Packers toyed in the offseason with having starting defensive end Cullen Jenkins play outside linebacker in passing situations in an effort to turn up the pressure on the quarterback.
Green Bay already is short-handed on the defensive line with starting end Johnny Jolly suspended by the league for the entire season for a violation of the substance-abuse policy.
Jeremy Kapinos averaged just 43.8 gross yards and ranked last in the league with a net average of 34.1 last season.
Green Bay bid adieu to Kapinos and is left with a camp battle between two young and unproven candidates: Chris Bryan and Tim Masthay. Neither has kicked in an NFL game, including the preseason.
The left-footed Bryan is a product of the Australian Rules Football league, which has given him a leg up in directional kicking. The right-footed Masthay, a top kicker in college at Kentucky, had a cup of coffee with the Indianapolis Colts last preseason.