O'HARA: Another eye on Matthew Stafford

Posted Jun 11, 2014

Quarterback Matthew Stafford welcomes the scrutiny of the “Ladder Cam” that head coach Jim Caldwell has brought to the Lions’ practices.

Matthew Stafford has had a new set of coaches to work with in this offseason, a new offense to learn and some new receivers catching passes.

Hovering over him is a big eye that watches practice.

As one of Detroit’s most scrutinized athletes who literally is analyzed from head to toe on everything ranging from how he wears his cap to his delivery and footwork, the last thing the Lions’ quarterback might want is to have another eye following him.

But Stafford welcomes the scrutiny of the “Ladder Cam” that head coach Jim Caldwell has brought to the Lions’ practices. Caldwell’s 2014 “Ladder Cam” has a more sophisticated design than the ancient contraption he used years ago, when a camera was actually mounted on top of a ladder.

Matthew StaffordQB Matthew Stafford (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Caldwell's updated version provides an overhead view as well as a view from behind the quarterback.

“I think it’s pretty old school,” Stafford said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “I think he (Caldwell) has been doing it for a long time. It’s cool. It’s kind of a unique perspective.

“Maybe the NFL will put it out with their 22 coaches tape and all that and they’ll get a Ladder Cam for the game. Fans can figure out what we’re reading on every play, too.”

Stafford’s “22 coaches tape” comment was a reference to the NFL selling the full-field video of every play, which allows fans to get the same view that coaches and players get.

Stafford said he used a more rudimentary version of the Ladder Cam at Highland Park High School. Maybe it was Ladder Cam 1.0.

”This is the first time I’ve been filmed from that overhead view,” Stafford said. “It’s interesting. It’s cool. It’s good for a quarterback, a quarterback coach, to go over just where your feet are, where your head is, where your eyes are, where the ball gets placed.”

For Stafford, the value of using the camera is in reviewing what he did right on a given play.

“I think it’s more for confirming what you thought you saw – whether this was really good, or I felt like I got stuck here or didn’t get there,” he said. ‘It’s either ‘Yeah,’ or ‘I was better than I thought or worse than I thought.’

“It’s just a good teaching tool.”

Regardless of the view from above or behind, the offense that’s been put together by Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi gives Stafford some freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. That’s something he has done in the past.

“After a certain point in time, you have a real good feel for it,” Caldwell said. “Checking plays at the line of scrimmage for him is not new. He’s done it before. He has a good understanding of it and he even does some now.

“That’s kind of part of the package because he’s got to have a little bit of autonomy from time to time to get you in the right play.”

Stafford will have some new tools to work with that should make the passing game and overall offense more efficient and possibly more explosive than last year.

It can’t be understated how important it is that Calvin Johnson is fresher and healthier than a year ago, when he battled finger and knee injuries most of the season.

In the offseason, the Lions drafted tight end Eric Ebron in the first round and signed free-agent Golden Tate, a sure-handed receiver who should help reduce the number of dropped passes that has hounded the Lions the last four years.

As the Lions close out the offseason today with the final minicamp practice, Stafford has seen the new pieces fit together in an offensive scheme that they all have a hand in developing. He doesn’t need a camera to be enthused about the potential of the offense.

“That’s kind of one of the fun parts of this year, imagining down the road what guys’ roles are going to be in this offense,” Stafford said. “Guys kind of go out there and play, and you build roles for them.”