DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) In the wake of ranking 77 on the NFL’s elite quarterbacks list — behind Jay Cutler and Tony Romo — the Lions’ Matthew Stafford said fans will see a new team this year.

“Obviously we have a lot of the same players but it’s a new team, new identity, a new year,” he said during an interview on 97.1 The Ticket. “We’ll have different challenges this year than we did last year. The good thing for us is we have been in the same offense for three-and-a-half years now.”

And that new team still involves the much-celebrated star receiver Calvin Johnson. So, will Stafford throw automatically to Johnson?

“You know when he’s playing as well as he can and I’m doing my thing I think it’s probably when our offense plays its best,” Stafford said. “I think teams know that and they try to take him away. The best thing about it is the other guys on our team do a great job at winning their match-ups.”

And that defense trying to hold Johnson at bay has come up with some pretty creative moves.

“We played the Saints and they put the punt return vice on Calvin down there on the goal line so we couldn’t throw the fade,” Stafford said. “Dallas basically put a diamond around him, so I’ve seen it all.”

Another person Stafford looks forward to playing with again this year is Titus Young.

I think Titus had a great year last year,” he said. “If we could just get a repeat performance of that. He played well for us in the clutch. He’s a kid that has some very special traits. It’s fun to have him on the other side of Calvin.”

So how important is Jahvid Best on this year’s team?

“I think Jahvid is very important,” Stafford said. “He’s a special player, a guy out of the back field that can score every time he touches the ball. He’s a guy we can put out as a slot receiver. I honestly don’t know what the deal with Jahvid is. Coach Schwartz probably has a better grasp on that than any of us. We’re hoping to see him back soon if we can.”


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