Freeman's potential stands alone
Given production to this point, I fully understand their thinking. Freeman had an exceptional season for the Buccaneers, leading the young team well beyond any realistic expectations and nearly into the postseason. He has everything you could possibly want in a quarterback -- all the measureables, intangibles, skill -- and looks to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
But I know what Stafford's coaches think of him. I know what his teammates think. I know what he's flashed in games and showed consistently in practices. I saw that big arm of his winding up and looking good again at Georgia's spring game a few weeks back.
If this kid can stay healthy, the Lions' franchise is in for a reversal of its own. I remember talking to veteran offensive lineman Jon Jansen about Stafford just weeks into the passer's first training camp, and there was already no doubt in Jansen's mind the kid would start right away. "He has everything you look for in a quarterback," Jansen said. "He is going to be a star." And after being through the perpetual revolving door at QB during his career in Washington, Jansen knows a thing or two about the dos and don'ts of the position.
The question is, can Stafford stay healthy? I believe he can. But there are flaws he must correct. Scouts in the NFC North figured out that Stafford does not move up into the pocket enough when pressured. Like a punter, he stays stationary at the point of attack too often, allowing players to come off the edge and hunt for his throwing shoulder.
"Some of this is on him," one veteran scout said of the repeated injuries. "He has to feel the pressure and step up into the pocket and force pass rushers to adjust and change their angles."
But trust me, the Lions must realize this as well. Stafford is a smart kid. He just hasn't had the chance to play regularly in games that matter.
And, best of all, the defense will actually help him out now. Stafford arrived at a time when the Lions couldn't stop anyone or pressure the passer or force momentum-changing plays. He joined a team that couldn't even win a game and went years between road wins.
Brandt: Stafford all-in
It was a somewhat hopeless proposition with teams piling on points, Stafford having to chase games and throw too much and opposing coordinators teeing off on the kid. Now he can actually inherit short fields and scoring opportunities from the defense, with that front four as fearsome as they come these days (my vote for a nickname, by the way, is Motor City Madmen).
Stafford won't be as predictable, shouldn't be trailing early and often as much. He should have a better-balanced offense.
There is every reason to believe this will be the breakout year. It's time Stafford got a break, um, of something other than a bone that is.