The way Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was playing the first half of last year, it's sometimes easy to forget he was in his first year under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Up until a Week 9 back injury ended his season prematurely, Stafford had 2,499 passing yards (ranked fourth in the NFL), 19 touchdowns (second) and a 106.0 passing rating (fifth).
Bevell's offense had Stafford pushing the ball down the field more in the passing game, and that really fit his skill set. Stafford's 41 completions of 20-plus yards led the NFL through the first half of last season.
Last offseason while Stafford was learning the new offense, he was also dedicating a lot of his time to his family, while his wife Kelly recovered from brain surgery.
While this offseason has been trying in terms of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and a virtual offseason program, Stafford fells like he's in a really good place in terms of his knowledge and comfort level of Bevell's scheme headed into year two of this offense.
"I think last year was a big offseason for me and a tough one," Stafford said. "Obviously, right as we were starting to do all the OTAs and everything, where we're going to install offense and all of that, Kelly is going through brain surgery and I'm trying to navigate that and learn the offense as best I could.
"I put a lot of time and effort into that, but at the same time, it's not the same as being there in the meetings and all that. I feel like I had a really good grasp on this offense in the first year and I'm hoping to build on that."
Detroit was third in passing yards per game (312.4), fifth in total yards per game (391.3) and 12th in points per game (25.5) with Stafford under center in 2019.
The offense returns all of its top receiving threats and added one of the draft's top running backs in D'Andre Swift.
"We want to be a great offense and the first step to it is making sure everyone is on the same page pulling in the same direction," Stafford said. "I think we've got that. Hopefully we can continue to grow and get better in year two."
It will be interesting to see how teams who have new coaching staffs or new offensive schemes take on this added challenge of no on-field activities. It's one thing to learn something in a classroom setting, but another to then take it to the field and perfect it. For Stafford and the Lions, the offensive foundation is already in place, now it's the tweaking and fine-tuning, something much easier to accomplish in just a classroom learning environment.
Stafford is certainly hoping that gives him and this offense an edge heading into an uncertain future. He has had the opportunity to work out with wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola, rookie running back D’Andre Swift, rookie receiver Quintez Cephus and second-year tight end Isaac Nauta a little bit this offseason.
"It doesn't hurt to be in a second year of an offense and not try to learn something new and try to be a rookie quarterback or second-year guy coming in," Stafford said.
"Definitely, I feel like it's a positive for us as a team and for myself. When I get out there and throw with those guys, when I get chances to work with them I feel like I can teach them as good as our coaches can on what we're looking for and what they need to do. That's an advantage for us. Now let's just hope that shows up on Sunday's."