After Calvin Johnson retired at the end of last season, the thought was Matthew Stafford would struggle this season without one of the best receivers in NFL history, but the Detroit Lions quarterback hasn’t missed a beat.
Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter says Stafford may be even better without Johnson.
“I think he’s a growing and developing quarterback, so yes, I do think he was better than he was the last year, two years ago, three years ago,” Cooter said on Thursday, via ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein. “Hopefully we’re all getting better every year. I think he falls into that category too. But I think he’s doing a really good job with what we’re asking him to do and so are the receivers, tight ends and backs.”
Stafford is on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards for the sixth year in a row, and for the best completion percentage (68.0) and passer rating (99.6) of his career. Cooter says it’s because Stafford isn’t focusing on one guy to throw to, like he did with Johnson.
“He’s really just trying to throw it to the open guy. It’s as simple as that. It sounds overly simple, but it’s a really big deal,” Cooter said. “You know, when you have Calvin Johnson out there, one of the all-time great receivers, going to the Hall of Fame as soon as you can get him in there, it makes a lot of sense to try and throw that guy the ball. Sometimes you might override your read to do that.”
“Sometimes it’s easier for a quarterback, you have your reads, you have your progressions, you have your thought processes, and you just go around throwing it to who gets open. He’s doing a good job of doing that.”
Stafford is spreading the ball around this season to his backs and receivers. Marvin Jones leads the team with 41 targets followed by Theo Riddick (32), Golden Tate (31), Anquan Boldin (28) and Eric Ebron (25).