Monday, August 8, 2011

Why This Year Will Be Different: Stafford to Megatron

In the midst of all the depressing injury news in training camp, I figured now would be the best time to start my new offseason feature: Why This Year Will Be Different.  The Lions have gone through significant improvement in the last couple years and appear ready to make the jump from perennial loser to respected feared opponent.  Perhaps the biggest reason a turnaround is likely is the improved chemistry between Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford.

In the two years they have played together, Stafford and Johnson have shown flashes of what could be the best QB/WR tandem in the league.  Games in which Johnson had 100 yards or more with Stafford behind center, the Lions are 2-1.  However, those games have been few and far between.  They have only played 11.5 games together in which Johnson averaged 4.8 catches for 69.9 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game.  Johnson only has one game in which he and Stafford connected for multiple touchdowns.

So why will the duo have a breakout year together?  Several reasons.  First, both are healthy (I nearly broke my hand knocking on wood).  The two only played three games together last year because of Stafford's injury and Stafford's rookie season was littered with injuries to both himself and Megatron.  This duo is also getting the benefit of having another "full" training camp to develop chemistry.  According the Lions beat reporters, the improved timing and trust between the two have been evident:

Also, the addition of Titus Young will likely give the Lions another threat that defenses will have to account for.  It's unlikely that opposing teams will move coverage away from Calvin, but Young will make defenders think twice before leaving him open.  I fully expect to see the defense bite on a pump-fake to Young, bomb to Calvin at least once this year.

Finally, Calvin has dominated the NFL with a backup (or 3rd stringer) at the helm.  CJ hit the century mark four times last year and almost single-handedly won the game at Tampa.  He finished 9th in receiving yards and 2nd in TD receptions last year, despite only playing 2.5 games with Stafford.

So take a minute from the doom and gloom of Mikel LeShoure's season-ending injury and remember this team still has what may be the best quarterback/wide receiver duo in league.  Both still have a lot to prove and need to stay healthy, but if all the signs are true, they will have a season that will have defenses scrambling to hold the score below 30.  

1 comment:

  1. The thought of Stafford to CJ for a full season gives me a chubby.

    Love the optimism. Good work. Good article length - perfect for an at-work read