Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

Posted Jul 15, 2012

Matthew Stafford is the kind of quarterback who would throw for 1,000 fewer yards this season if it meant one or two more victories and another trip to the playoffs for the Lions. It says a lot about the maturity of a 24-year-old quarterback, who's become the face of an organization and the reason it should be a playoff contender for as long as he puts on a Lions uniform.

The simple truth is that the Lions will go as far as Stafford can take them in 2012. Entering his fourth season in Scott Linehan's offense, Stafford has taken ownership of this offense and the Lions have hit the ground running offensively this offseason because of it.

"As you become a veteran in any system as a quarterback you have to take ownership of the offense," Linehan said. "This is natural for Matt to do it.

"He knows when it's time for him to step in and say, 'Coach, look at this play and do that.' He knows we are very receptive to that and we have that kind of relationship and we trust each other."

Stafford became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season last year and set team records for attempts (663), completions (421), yards (5,038) and touchdowns (41).

"Being able to go out there Day 1 checking off plays and changing routes and all that stuff makes it fun," Stafford said this offseason of where the offense was. "You can always be in a position to beat the defense and you have to go out there and see if you can do it, but its nice knowing that everyone is on the same page."

The Lions are solid in the top two of their depth chart at quarterback. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill signed a two-year contract extension before the season and enters 2012 as the clear backup to Stafford. Hill has starting experience, knows the offense and is great in the quarterback room.

After Stafford and Hill is where it gets interesting come training camp.

The Quarterbacks:

NameHt/Wt.AgeComp, AttYdsTDsIntComp %
Matthew Stafford 6-3/232 24 421-of-663 5,038 41 16 63.5
Shaun Hill 6-3/220 32 2-of-3 33 0 0 66.7
Kellen Moore* 6-0/197 23 326-of-439 3,800 43 9 74.3
R.J. Archer# 6-2/220 24 229-of-382 2,446 49 -- 59.9

*College stats

#Arena league stats

By the numbers:

666: Number of passes thrown by Lions quarterbacks in the regular season last year, the most in the NFL.

3: 20+ point comebacks for Stafford in his brief career (Cowboys 2011; Vikings 2011, Browns 2009).

41: Touchdowns thrown by Stafford last season, the seventh most in a single season in NFL history.

Camp competition: Moore and Archer will be battling each other for the third quarterback spot left vacant by the loss of Drew Stanton in free agency.

The Lions pursued Moore right after he went undrafted in April and signed him to a deal shortly after the draft. Moore doesn't have a great physical presence on the field, but he's shown he can move the offense and will have a chance to make the team in the preseason.

Archer is a more prototypical passer with good size and arm strength. Archer was brought in during the rookie minicamp in May and he impressed the Lions enough that they signed him to a contract in June to compete with Moore.

Moore and Archer are competing with each other in camp, but there's no guarantee the winner will earn a roster spot. It's certainly possible the Lions could only keep two quarterbacks heading into the season because of roster needs at other positions. Stafford is coming off a season in which he started every game. Stanton didn't dress for one as the third quarterback last year. Can the Lions afford to keep a roster spot open and cut a good player, who could contribute somewhere else, for a player they hope never plays? We'll see how the top 53 shakes out.

Player to watch: Stafford has become must-watch TV. Coming off one of the greatest seasons for a quarterback in NFL history, what does the fourth-year pro have in store for an encore?

Stafford could be even better this year if he's afforded the benefit of a good rushing attack behind Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best. Both Stafford and the Lions are hoping he doesn't have to throw for another 5,000 yards this year. A solid rushing attack will give Stafford that many more chances to make big plays in the passing game.

Stafford will also have a healthy Titus Young to begin the season, who has looked good all offseason. Second-round pick Ryan Broyles is also a new toy for Stafford to have at his disposal.

Cutting down on the 16 interceptions from last season has to be a goal of Stafford's entering the season. If all of his weapons stay healthy, it's possible he could be even more efficient in 2012 than he was a year ago.