Stafford splits No. 2 reps, 'living up to the hype'
Matthew Stafford has been the butt of some good-natured ribbing since he returned to the Lions for offseason workouts earlier this week. His personal favorite line? When defensive end Eric Hicks couldn't catch him on a bootleg, Hicks ran over and apologized, Sorry, I was just picking up all the money falling out of your pocket.
The No. 1 pick in April's draft and owner of the richest guaranteed contract ($41.7 million) in NFL history, Stafford split second-team quarterback reps with Drew Stanton Thursday, rotating behind for-now starter Daunte Culpepper.
Stafford was far from flawless by my count, he was 6-of-12 in full-team work Thursday and 5-for-5 in seven-on-seven drills but he showed in flashes why the Lions believe he'll develop into a franchise quarterback. In one-on-one work with receivers early Thursday, Stafford dropped a perfectly pass over the left shoulder of fellow rookie D.J. Boldin after Boldin beat cornerback Dexter Wynn with a double move. The 40-yard bomb was on the sideline where only Boldin could catch it.
He's coming out here and working hard and he's definitely living up to the hype, making good passes and showing his leadership out there with the second group, Hicks said. You can't argue with that.
Stafford said he's not reading too much into the way reps are split up yet, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz said snaps have been divided different every day of practice this week. Still, his presence has ratcheted up the competition at quarterback, where he and Culpepper are expected to compete for the starting job in the fall.
It's one thing when we're working with two quarterbacks and guys that have been here together for the better part of a year, Schwartz said. All of a sudden you add anybody into that equation, whether its quarterback, running back, wide receiver, it's going to change the dynamic. Everybody knows in the locker room where the guy was picked, and everybody knows in the city of Detroit and across the country. That's going to change things. That's different than an undrafted rookie free agent entering the sweepstakes.
My personal impressions Thursday: Culpepper was, as expected, the sharpest, and he had the benefit of working with Calvin Johnson, who makes an amazing catch every practice. Stanton, who was ahead of Stafford in the No. 2 rotation (it went Culpepper, Stanton, Culpepper, Stafford, etc.), had a pretty good day throwing the ball. But Stafford remains the most talented. Even with the veterans, his passes seem to get on the receiver as soon as they turn around.
"I feel really comfortable with the offense as far as what we put in," Stafford said. "I know it's not the whole thing and I got to just keep getting more familiar with it, but as far as the basics go, I feel pretty good."