| The Detroit News
Prior to his season-ending injury a year ago, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was arguably playing the best football of his career. But through the first four games of the 2020 season, he’s struggled to recapture that form.
Stafford’s completion percentage, yards and yards per attempt are closer to his disappointing 2018 campaign, his last with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. And while there are a number of factors likely contributing to the regression, current coordinator Darrell Bevell said there’s one foundational concern that merits the most focus coming out of the bye.
“I think there are a lot of things that go into that, but I think when you simplify it as easy as you can for the quarterback — I had a small conversation with him about it — I think it usually goes back to your feet,” Bevell said. “Your feet really tell you the story. Your feet is what you gets you through your progressions, gets you through the play.
“I think that we were really in a good place last year, then, keep in mind, he had all that time off, not running plays with guys in our offense,” Bevell said. “Just continuing to work on those little details, making sure that our feet are helping us get through progressions, helping us make the decisions and that we bring our feet with us through all our throws.”
Early in Stafford’s career, the quarterback was often criticized for his inconsistent mechanics. And while many falsely attributed that to the wide variety of arm angles he deployed in his delivery, the bigger issue was always his footwork.
In those first few seasons, Stafford would often throw off his back foot, fading away from the pocket as opposed to stepping into his throws. That impacted his accuracy and consistency.
The obvious overlap between then and now is injuries. Back then, Stafford was coming off serious shoulder injuries, which could have had a lingering subconscious impact when he was under pressure. This season, Stafford is coming off a second straight year with broken bones in his back.
But both Bevell and position coach Sean Ryan insist they see no residual concerns with the back.
“I haven’t seen anything from concern on his end about injuries,” Ryan said. “He, to me, has felt well. Hasn’t given me indication of anything else. I think footwork is always a thing for quarterbacks. You’re always working on it. If you think you’re ever done with that, you’re probably headed for a problem.”
Ryan and Bevell also believe Stafford’s issues are correctable through a practice routine designed on fixing them. With the Lions sitting at 1-3, and their season already on the brink, there’s little time to waste.
Through four games, Stafford ranks 29th among qualifying passers in competition percentage, 18th in yards per game and 18th in interception rate.