It was just last week when Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell hinted that Matthew Stafford was going to be a more mobile in 2019. I think the understanding of that was simple. Stafford isn’t going to sit in the pocket as much as he did under Jim Bob Cooter. Cooter’s strategy may have had early promise, but Stafford got sacked a whopping 161 times in the span, and by the end it was clear defenses had them figured out.
After seeing Stafford in Allen Park on Sunday, I think it’s safe to say that I drastically underestimated what Bevell meant by Stafford being a mobile quarterback, because this guy was all over the place. He was running damn near to the sideline and tossing dimes down field. On one play, he threw one off his back foot way out of the pocket in almost a Michael Jordan fade away-esque fashion and completed the pass.
It’s both exciting and extremely scary. Stafford isn’t known for his feet necessarily. Sure we all semi-ironically call him “Wheels” when he scrambles for a first down, but generally, Stafford has been the guy to somewhat stay put.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t move. Stafford has, from time to time, made some really great plays when moving. He was masterful against the Giants in 2014 when he was using his feet all night. Just look at it.
So what does this mean? If you’re expecting Stafford to be like Russell Wilson, stop that. That’s not going to happen. Stafford can get away and we’ve seen him juke a man or two in the past. But he’s doesn’t have the speed or frankly the agility to play that way. He’s also not going to become Michael Vick overnight either.
But what Stafford can do is take a page out of Aaron Rodgers’ book. If you watch Rodgers’ game, you’ll notice that he is constantly out of the pocket. It’s one of the things that’s so infuriating about him. He’s slippery and seems to always find a way to get outside and run around until something develops.
The concern here is obvious. While patterning your game a little after Aaron Rodgers is fun, you have the possibilities to receive some of the problems that come with that. At the top of that list is injuries.
While Rodgers hasn’t missed many games, he has been injured in one way or another in almost every season since 2013. He tore a calf muscle in 2014, had calf pains in 2016 that slowed him down, fractured his clavicle in 2017, and sprained his MCL and had a concussion in 2018. A lot of these injuries happened when Rodgers was on the run.
While Stafford hasn’t dealt with any injuries that have caused him to miss games, he, too, has dealt with plenty of injuries. So, as a fan, you have to be clutching your chest every time Stafford decides to leave the pocket.
The other concern here is that leaving the pocket doesn’t solve the sack problem. The two quarterbacks we mentioned in here are currently dealing with the same problems. Russell Wilson, who was with Bevell for the first six years of his career, has been sacked 299 times in his career. 248 of those times came during Bevell’s time in Seattle. Rodgers got sacked 49 times last year. The sacks could very well keep coming for Stafford.
But still, Stafford on the move can open things up down field and let plays develop. Plus there’s no way of knowing right now just how much the Lions plan to move Stafford around. There’s only been four days of training camp so far. We’ve got a lot of time to see how things come together.