NOTEBOOK: Weight of franchise on Stafford's shoulders

Posted Aug 19, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Tuesday's practice including Matthew Stafford's responsibility, a change in kicking rotation and more.

Matthew Stafford knew the first day he walked into Allen Park the weight of a franchise was on his shoulders.

It’s the same feeling 31 other quarterbacks on 31 other teams in this league feel walking through the door.

“When you look at successful teams in the NFL a majority of them is having a quarterback play at a high level,” Stafford said. “That’s something that I’ve always tried to do and always tried to hold myself to that standard and this season is no different.”

So what is the definition of playing at a high level for Stafford?

“It’s tough to put numbers on it,” he said. “You just want to go out there and make good throws, make good decisions, limit turnovers, make sure we’re in the right play every time if you can and lead this time. That’s the biggest thing. Score points and keep the ball.”

This is unchartered territory for Stafford, who is entering his sixth year in the league, but his first under head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system.

“For me the biggest challenge this offseason was trying to get a mastery of the playbook. The new system we have going in,” Stafford said. “That’s what I spent most of my time and effort on. With that comes new drops and new reads and things like that and I’ve integrated that in with it.”

So far this preseason the results have good.

Stafford is 11-of-14 passing for 106 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 137.7 in limited action.

He’ll get the bulk of his work this preseason on Friday vs. Jacksonville in the regular-season tune up for both squads. Stafford and most of the starters are expected to play into the third quarter and it’ll be the first time he has his full compliment of weapons.

Caldwell has won Super Bowls working with Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. Lombardi has a ring from his time working with Drew Brees in New Orleans. The point is, these coaches know what winning quarterback play looks like. They’ve seen it close up and they are expecting it from Stafford.

“He embraced this thing right from the onset,” Caldwell said.

“A lot of times, guys will look for an excuse of maybe why they weren’t as effective in certain phases like ‘we’ve got a new system, it’s a little tough, it’s a learning curve, it’s a little difficult,’ he’s made none of those. He came out, he’s worked, he’s functioned, he’s gotten better as a result of that and I look for him to keep improving.”


Giorgio TavecchioK Giorgio Tavecchio (Photo: Detroit Lions)

As the kicking competition between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio continues to ramp up, the Lions plan to change up the kicking rotation a little bit this week.

For the first time this preseason, punter Sam Martin will begin the game handling the kickoff duties. Caldwell wants to see if he should hold on to that job along with his punting duties.

In the first two games, Freese has been the place kicker for the first half and Tavecchio the second half. Caldwell is switching to a rotational system against Jacksonville. The Lions will rotate those players between kicking opportunities, not halves.

“I think there’s some fairness there,” Caldwell said. “So it gives both guys an opportunity, you know, to kick in a portion of the game that is similar. We just think we can probably do a little bit better job evaluating if we do it that way. So that’s the reason why.”

Tavecchio has probably been a little bit more consistent throughout training camp, but Freese’s 55-yard field goal against Oakland last week off the dirt at O.Co Stadium was impressive.

It’s a close competition, according to Caldwell, one that could come down to the last possible moment.

“It’s day by day, it really is. It’s hard,” Caldwell said. “Those guys, like I said, have been kicking well in practice, besides one or two here that somebody might have missed. The competition has been good; it’s been good for both. But it’s been difficult for us to sort out.”


The Lions treated Tuesday like a normal Thursday during the regular season, which typically means a lot of situational football. It’s usually the heaviest workday of the week for the players.

“We will install our red zone, short yardage, goal line, those kinds of things and go over our two minutes at the end of practice, as well,” Caldwell said before practice.

This is the first time in training camp the Lions are heavily scheming for an opponent. It gives players an opportunity to know what that process is like both in the meeting room and on the field.

“We’re giving the guys the kind of opportunity to go through that along with the things that we’ve done this morning in terms of the install,” Caldwell said. “It’s a little bit more difficult than the rest of the week, Thursday's are always the longer practice and it’s one that’s pretty taxing.”


Drayton Florence’s second stint as a Lion didn’t last long. After signing the veteran cornerback last week, the team released him Tuesday.

Florence did not play well in Oakland, giving up a long touchdown pass and a number of other plays late in the game.

Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis will head to the regular season as the starters at cornerback with Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green vying for backup roles.


Safety DeJon Gomes (neck) and receiver TJ Jones (PUP, shoulder) were the only players absent from practice Tuesday.

“I think the doctors have said it’s not a long-term injury and I think it’s up to them to make that determination,” Caldwell said of Gomes. “I try to stay in the coaching business and let them handle the medical affairs.”

It’s also worth noting that linebacker Kyle Van Noy worked individual drills with the defensive lineman. The Lions expect the SAM linebacker to be a versatile player and giving him some time with the rush specialists makes sense.