Matthew Stafford is in the most important training camp of his NFL career as the former No. 1 overall pick is at a bit of a crossroads as he looks to get over the hump of a thrower with impressive stats to a quarterback who can lead his team deep into the postseason.
Stafford has the talent to be mentioned among the elite quarterbacks in the league, but has yet to take that career-defining step from the third tier of quarterbacks into the group behind Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Could this year be the season the former Georgia Bulldog makes that leap under first-year head coach Jim Caldwell?
“I think Matt has the ability and talent to get it done,” Caldwell told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. “But it’s a matter of maturing along the way, which he’s done, and it happens around your fourth, fifth or sixth year. Same sort of time with Peyton and Joe. Matt has embraced everything. He’s dedicated. He’s got a thirst for the game. That’s one thing you want to see.”
The hiring of Caldwell may have been the most brilliant hire of any in the offseason as his style is a complete contrast from Jim Schwartz and why many are picking the Lions to get to the postseason after years of underachieving under Schwartz.
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter should combine with Caldwell to put Stafford in an environment that should bring out his immense talent and reduce his mistakes.
The time is now for Stafford to take the next step in his NFL career, but he won’t have to do it alone as he has a lot of help to push him in the right direction.