Lions' First Preseason Game will be the Next Step in Stafford Building Chemistry with His Offense

Posted Aug 10, 2010

As the first preseason game of the year approaches, each side of the ball has its own focus.

While the defense is developing chemistry with almost an entirely new starting lineup, the offense is building off consistency – particularly when it comes to quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Last year at this time, Stafford had not yet been named the starter, so the focus was on a quarterback competition.

Now he is the established starter and put in a significant amount of work this offseason, reporting the first day of the conditioning program.

“We’re extending a lot of things that we wouldn’t have done with a rookie - when we were just trying to get him ready for what’s at stake in an opening game,” said Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan.

“He’s been through it now. He’s preparing himself daily for the practice, weekly for the preseason and, ultimately, we’d love to get off to a fast start in the opener.”

Stafford’s experience creates a butterfly effect to his surrounding skill players including wide receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

“I think everybody’s getting more comfortable with him,” said Pettigrew. “He spreads the ball around – all the quarterbacks do – and everybody’s comfortable with everybody. That’s important and that’s a big thing.

“It’s going to help everybody, especially him being comfortable knowing he can go to this player and this player.”

A big emphasis has been placed on Stafford’s chemistry with Johnson.

Both players battled injuries throughout the 2009 season, so there wasn’t enough continuity for the pair to develop a good rhythm.

“Taking reps together this offseason – that’s how you build chemistry,” said Stafford. “You can talk about it all you want and look at it on film, but you’ve got to go out there and do it to really feel comfortable with it.”

Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh will be the next step in that.

Not only will Stafford have the opportunity to work with Johnson in a game environment, he will have the opportunity to work with added components at the skill positions like wide receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler and rookie running back Jahvid Best.

“We just need to show improvement, be able to be sharp, go out there and perform and have a good plan,” said Linehan. “You don’t really game plan preseason games per se.

“We’ll have a plan and a call sheet that prepares for our opener and the preseason, but the biggest thing we want to do – regardless of whether we’re going against ourselves or going against another team – is go out there and execute.”