Pressure Point: Stafford must play
- AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiDetroit is an improving franchise, but it needs Matthew Stafford healthy and playing.A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.
Quarterbacks make this league go round, and the improving Detroit Lions have a lot invested in their young signal-caller, Matthew Stafford. The way I view this league, there are six truly elite quarterbacks. In no particular order, they are: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers. After this illustrious group, I see 10 to 12 legitimate NFL quarterbacks I believe are capable of leading a team to the promised land. This list includes Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Injuries have derailed Stafford quite a bit, but the Lions need Stafford to join that second tier in 2011. And I think he will.
Scouts Inc. Pressure Point
• Bears' Taylor must produce
• Crabtree needs to progress
• Chris Johnson must regain '09 form
• Ravens need a more assertive Flacco
• Healthy Stafford a must for Lions
• Can Lynch replicate wild-card run?
• Is Matt Cassel the guy for KC?
• Vikings need 2009 Allen
• Can Henne rebound for Dolphins?
• Raiders' Campbell may lack tools
• Is Knowshon Moreno a No. 1 back?
• Texans' new D depends on Williams
• Does Colt McCoy have the arm?
• Can Michael Oher hold up for Ravens?
• Dallas D needs improved Jenkins
• What role will Vilma play for Saints?
• Can Jets' Greene carry the load?
• Can Curry justify draft status?
• Will Wilson's role change for Cards?
• Can San Diego's English make switch?
• Chiefs need more from Jackson
Stafford not only needs to stay healthy, he needs to play better. His lifetime 54.5 completion percentage won't cut it. He also has thrown more interceptions than he has touchdowns over his two seasons. To his credit, he did throw only one interception last season, and his completion percentage increased by about 6 percent, which is very encouraging. More experience would go a very long way in his development, but overall I really like what I see.
To finish the season, the Lions won four straight games -- without Stafford. For Detroit to build on that momentum and challenge for a playoff spot, Stafford needs to stay healthy and continue his progression. Playing only 13 out of a possible 32 games just isn't going to cut it for a franchise quarterback, which is exactly what I think Stafford is.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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