For the first time in Matthew Stafford's NFL career, he'll be operating in the Lions offense without Calvin Johnson. Stafford won't be able to rely on Megatron to rescue his errant passes in tight coverage and we'll find out just how much his numbers were inflated by Johnson's presence.
Except, if you subscribe to Stafford's line of thinking, which he revealed on Sirius XM NFL Radio, then you might think he's on the eve of his best season as a pro. Because, according to Stafford, Johnson's absence will make life tougher on opposing defenses in at least one way.
I'll let him explain.
"I think we're going to do it a little bit differently than we have in the past," Stafford said, via Pro Football Talk. "Obviously we used to feature Calvin and everybody kind of got theirs after that. It's gonna, I think, be tougher for defenses in a certain way that they don't know who we're going to. There's no guy to key in on. We're probably just going to spread the ball around a bunch, a bunch of guys are gonna get a ton of catches and we're gonna be alright."
OK, sure. What Stafford is saying makes sense, kind of, in a way. Without Johnson, defenses won't know who Stafford will target on the vast majority of his passes and, in theory, that will make the Lions less predictable. But that's not a positive change for the Lions.
If Stafford wanted to spread the ball around, the best time for him to do that was with Johnson on the field, because defenses were forced to station extra defenders on Johnson's side of the field. Without Johnson, defenses won't need to commit an extra defender to anyone really. I like Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, but neither of them are legitimate No. 1 wideouts. They both would've thrived, however, playing alongside a defensive back magnet like Johnson.
The beauty of Megatron lied in his ability to win jump balls no matter the coverage, no matter the accuracy of the football. There's no replacing that. And for a quarterback like Stafford, who lacks precision and accuracy, Johnson's absence could result in a disaster.
Spreading the ball around sounds fun and effective, but you know what's more fun and more effective? Chucking up passes to some dude named Megatron.