Welcome to the conclusion of Tuesday 10, where every Tuesday over the summer, we've counted down ten Detroit Lions who are vital to the team's success in 2013. Today, we finish things by presenting the number one player profiled, a quarterback who's big offseason extension commands a bounce back season both statistically and otherwise.
The quarterback has been labeled the field general, the signal caller and sometimes, the six million dollar man. All of those definitions can certainly be applied to the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford except one. After signing a three year extension in July which netted him $41.5 million dollars in guaranteed money, Stafford is actually the $18 million dollar man.
With those numbers, many of which the rest of the league famously didn't agree with, Stafford finds himself with plenty of larger than life expectations in 2013. Either lead his Lions back to the playoffs and win games there while duplicating or exceeding 2011's production, or else the fate of Jim Schwartz and others in the front office could already be decided.
Last season, Stafford certainly regressed in his own ways after a stellar 2011 season. Despite nearly throwing for 5,000 yards in the second straight year, Stafford set a record for pass attempts and failed to find other receivers besides Calvin Johnson while untimely interceptions continued to haunt him. Certainly, injuries and other factors intervened there, but questions over Stafford's mechanics and footwork persist, and justly so given his accuracy problems.
With a major offensive reinforcement in Reggie Bush on the roster, Stafford has additional weapons to help supplement Johnson. The running game, with Bush and Joique Bell, should show much better despite a remade offensive line. Detroit didn't add a solid number two wide receiver, meaning Stafford himself must find a way to turn unheralded players like Patrick Edwards and Michael Spurlock into household contributors. It might be a huge task, but other big dollar talents like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have done that at the position for years.
That just displays how the pressure's on Stafford in a variety of ways this season. Not only must he solve accuracy problems and win, he must elevate the play of new teammates in the process. If he's able to juggle all those footballs successfully, though, there's no doubt Detroit will be much improved in 2013. A healthy, elite looking Stafford would transform the Lions into definite Super Bowl contenders if the defense ends up being as good as advertised.
Should Stafford continue his downswing from 2012, though, another 6-10 type season is also definitely in play for the Lions. Without a doubt, Detroit needs much better things from Stafford first to change their fortunes, making him the most important Lion for the 2013 season.
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