ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matthew Stafford became the Detroit Lions’ all-time leading passer last season.
But that accomplishment got lost in the closing stretch of a disappointing season.
He finished last season with 17,457 yards passing to surpass Hall of Famer Bobby Layne’s team record, but he threw five interceptions during a late three-game skid that dropped the Lions out of playoff contention.
He’s still looking to regain his form from his only playoff season, when he ended 2011 with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes with just 16 interceptions. He’s thrown more interceptions each season since. The arrival of a new coaching staff could be just the thing.
“Our head coach has been to Super Bowls, has won Super Bowls,” he said of head coach Jim Caldwell, who won Super Bowls as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay and Baltimore and was hired after Detroit fired Jim Schwartz at the end of a 7-9 season.
“Having those guys around the building means a lot to us. It’s something we haven’t had in the past.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who spent the past five seasons as Drew Brees’ quarterbacks coach in New Orleans, also should help as the Stafford looks to reverse a run that has seen his yardage and completion percentage drop slightly in each of the past two seasons.
The quarterback doesn’t seem concerned.
“There was definitely some fun challenges for me,” he said of the time he’s spent working with Caldwell and Lombardi.
“Learning a new offense, new coaches: That part of it is fun. It’s a challenge but we’re excited about it.”
The Lions threw a lot in past seasons, mostly because they were one of the NFL’s worst running teams. The addition of free agent Reggie Bush before last season, coupled with the emergence of tailback Joique Bell, could mean less pressure on Stafford.
When the Lions throw, they still have All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, who won the Super Bowl last season with Seattle. The Lions drafted tight end Eric Ebron in the first round and re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Lombardi, who comes from Saints coach Sean Payton’s pass-heavy scheme, should have plenty to work with.
Stafford’s teammates also have confidence in his ability to bounce back.
“There’s pressure on him every single year,” guard Rob Sims said. “But he’s really stepping up.
“I still think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and I think he’s going to prove it this year.”
The Lions play their preseason opener Aug. 9 against visiting Cleveland.
Notes: The Lions took the field Tuesday afternoon with 89 men on the roster. The team is expected to have a full squad of 90 players by Wednesday. . The team will practice in Detroit tomorrow, but not at Ford Field. Wayne State, Bell’s alma mater, welcomes the Lions on Wednesday evening for a public practice. … Several coaches from Rose Bowl champion Michigan State, including defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, attended Tuesday’s practice. … Caldwell said Friday afternoon’s practice will be the team’s first in full pads.
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