ALLEN PARK >> Entering his ninth season, Matthew Stafford’s game is still growing.
It’s been evident in training camp and in his limited snaps into the first two preseason games (both wins) that the Lions quarterback has added to his repertoire.
“He’s really been dropping some passes in the bucket, some that either we catch or no one catches. When you can be a quarterback and make those type of plays that’s special. Every day, every year Matt’s getting better and always will,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.
Stafford will likely play about a half in the third preseason game where the Lions will face the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at 7 p.m. on Friday at Ford Field.
Here are five new things to know about Stafford:
1. In Saturday’s game he found TJ Jones over the middle for a nice touch pass. It’s not a throw that’s been in Stafford’s regular rotation. “I’m uncovering every stone I can to try and find a way to be better. And I think I got the fast balls down. Pretty good at those. Made a living doing those for a long time,’’ Stafford said. Any doubt, ask his receivers. “But at the same time, I felt like maybe when I looked at some tape last year, there were some plays out there that maybe I wasn’t trying to make that throw when I felt maybe, when you look at the tape, hey there’s a big play to be had there if you could just throw it over this guy and throw it around this guys, whatever it is. And so, I just studied all that kind of stuff in a while of how can I generalize this and work on something to get better. And that’s kind of some of the stuff that I’m working on.”
2. Coach Jim Caldwell has been a Stafford fan since Day One but he sees a difference too. “Yeah, I’ve always known him to be able to make every single throw that there is. I mean from the first day that I laid eyes on him watching him work. He’s not had any problems throwing screens. He’s not had any problems dropping the ball into open areas or anything of that nature,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. “But he’s trying to refine his game more so than anything else. But I’ve never seen any deficiency in any of those areas to be honest with you through the years or since we’ve been here. But like I said, he’s trying to get better and that’s the mark of a true champion, just in terms of how he goes about working, how he tries to improve upon every little detail, and he’s performing well right now.”
3. The quarterback, entering his ninth season, said the team will change a lot between now and Week 1 of the regular season. It’s like that every year. “Who all is going to be on the team, who’s going to be doing what job for you. At the moment, everybody’s learning everything, trying to fill in holes where we can,’’ Stafford said on Monday. “You go into Week 1, you’re going to have a very specific game plan on how you want to attack teams and this guy’s going to be this kind of player for us, so it’s a little bit difficult to make an assessment of where our team is at the moment. Obviously, there’s things generally that we can do better. We can have less penalties, have less turnovers, those kind of things are a general rule thing, but as far as where we are offensively or defensively, it’s kind of tough to say.”
4. Golden Tate said one reason Stafford has improved is his comfort level with the offense. “One, his knowledge of this offense is higher, two and a half years we’ve been in this offense with Jim Bob (Cooter). He just gets better. … He hits the open guy, a lot of passes you don’t even have to break stride which is important and nice and that’s how you run after the catch,’’ Tate said. “It seems like guys are catching the balls a lot better so I don’t know if our grips are getting stronger, or we’re getting better at catching or if he’s getting us better balls. I’d say it’s a combination of both.’’
5. The Lions defense has been flying around (in a good way) in the first two games. Stafford goes against them every day in practice and has noticed a difference from last year. “I think they’re moving around faster, a talented defense. Some coverage specific stuff a little bit different too than what I had seen in the past just through training camp,’’ Stafford said. “Some of the same, some different, it’s tough, but there are a lot of young guys that are out there playing and doing a nice job.”
BONUS: For the first time since he came to Detroit, Stafford worked with a quarterback guru in the summer. He said we wouldn’t notice the difference, but he would both on and off the field. “Yeah I’m trying. Trying to implement some of that stuff. Sometimes it’s better than others, but yeah I feel comfortable with most of the stuff that we’re doing,’’ Stafford said.