On the roster: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage, David Fales
Key losses: Matt Cassel
(Tom Savage and David Fales did not record any statistics in 2018)
Best competition: Who backs up Stafford in 2019?
Savage has a bit of a leg up on Fales because he was with the team for the entire offseason training program. That means he’s ahead in learning Darrell Bevell’s new offense. Fales wasn’t signed until June 10 and only had limited practice time before the team broke for the summer.
How much Fales learned on his own, and how ready he is to step in and run the offense, will go a long way into seeing how close this competition will be.
Savage played the 2014-17 seasons with the Texans, where new Lions quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan was his position coach in 2017. He made nine starts with the Texans and completed 57.5 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He did not play in a game last season.
Fales joins the Lions after a two-year stint (2017-18) with the Miami Dolphins, where he appeared in two games and completed 29-of-43 passes for 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception in that span. He also didn’t play in a game last season.
View photos of the quarterbacks competing for roster spots heading into training camp.
Twentyman’s take: Stafford enters year 11 learning his fourth different offense. Bevell wants his offense to be like the Lions' defense in that he wants to be able to attack opponents in a multitude of ways from week to week. Being more balanced with running the football is a big key. They made improvements on that front last season – averaging 103.8 yards per game – but that was still good for only 23rd best in the NFL.
Bevell wants to protect the football, run the ball with some consistency, played hard-nosed football upfront, and be explosive in the passing game. He likes to push the ball down the field in the passing game, which should suit Stafford.
Stafford is certainly looking for a bounce-back season in 2019 after failing to throw for 4,000 yards last season for the first time as a full-time starter. His 21 touchdowns were the fewest since 2012. The Lions won just six games last season, the fewest Stafford has won as the starting quarterback dating back to 2012 (4).
Lions general manager Bob Quinn has put together a nice collection of skill players around Stafford, led by Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson. Detroit’s defense finished last season ranked in the top 10 in the league, and should be even better in year two under head coach Matt Patricia’s scheme. This has the potential to be the best cast of overall talent Stafford’s had alongside him in his tenure in Detroit. Will it translate to more wins?
By the numbers:
7: The Lions protected the football pretty well overall in 2018, logging seven games without committing a turnover. Their seven games tied for the second best mark in the NFL last season and ranks as the best mark in franchise history. Detroit’s 19 total giveaways last season ranked 11th in the NFL.
77.2: Stafford's red-zone passer rating of 77.2 ranked 30th among the league’s qualified passers last season.
128: Stafford has started 128 consecutive games, the third longest active streak among NFL quarterbacks (Phillip Rivers 208; Matt Ryan 147) and the sixth longest streak in NFL history.
36.1: Detroit’s third-down efficiency percentage last year was the eighth worst in the NFL.
Quotable: “I think I’m going to ask Matthew to do things he hasn’t done before,” Bevell said this offseason. “Try to challenge him in a way that, I think, can push him to get better.
“But then, obviously, I need to tailor things for him to make sure that what he feels like he does well we’re able to do as well.”