Every Monday during the winter, we're taking a closer look back at the progression of every position on the Detroit Lions during the 2013 season.
Seeing as there was no position more maligned, confusing, compounding and frustrating for the Detroit Lions during the 2013 season, there's no better place to start a positional recap than at the top with the lead signal caller.
Given that Matthew Stafford signed a lucrative contract extension leading up to the year, his play became a major point of contention during the season. Early in the year, he lived up to the hype, while later, his play fell apart in the worst possible way, leading Detroit to miss the playoffs. As for Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore, neither saw the field, so neither lends much to the discussion. Where are each of these players headed in 2014? Here's a breakdown.
1. Matthew Stafford. Through the first six weeks of the year, the rocket-armed Stafford was off to a good start. The Lions were a respectable 4-3, and Stafford was excelling, firing 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions while collecting 2,129 yards passing. After a heady play won the Dallas game and redeemed a poor passing effort, the wheels completely fell off. 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions later, Stafford looked like a choker who was regressing due to Detroit missing the playoffs. Contrary to what many believe, Stafford isn't broken (his start to the 2013 season shows that), but rather, a quarterback in terrible need of a significant reconstruction. Stafford needs to learn how to make the responsible pass and manage a game. With some instruction on that, better footwork and arm slot work, the Lions' young signal caller could surprise.
- Does He Stay? Likely. Stafford isn't going anywhere. The new staff looks content to put their eggs in his basket and try and turn him into an elite quarterback. At age 25, time is on his side with a fresh coaching start.
- 2014 Outlook: Expect Stafford to have a much better season than 2013. He'll likely throw more touchdowns and, most significantly, less interceptions at critical moments of the game. Caldwell is a quarterback specialist and Joe Lombardi has spent most of his NFL career tutoring Drew Brees, so Stafford's ceiling should be high with better coaching and more attention to detail.
2. Shaun Hill. Hill didn't see any time during the 2013 regular season, which was controversial, considering many fans felt as if he should be seeing the field down the stretch with Stafford falling apart. At 34 years old, Hill could eventually be on the way out for a younger option, but he remains a steady fallback player, as his play in 2010 and 2012 proved. Can he be counted on to deliver those consistent results as he gets older in the absence of Stafford? Jim Caldwell will have to make that decision, considering Hill is a free agent, and a new coach might prefer one of his guys to take over.
- Does He Stay? Likely. Hill seems to love Detroit and the Lions probably won't find anything better, cheaper or more proven and stable on the open market as it relates to a veteran.
- 2014 Outlook: Expect things to be more of the same from Hill, as Stafford has proven more durable over the last few seasons with his injury woes temporarily behind him.
3. Kellen Moore. As a third quarterback, it was practically expected that Moore wouldn't see any time during the regular season barring a tragedy, and Stafford's health was never in jeopardy, so neither was Hill's. Scott Linehan believed in him the most coming out of college, which means his days could be numbered in the Motor City.
- Does He Stay? Not likely. Caldwell might like to find someone later in the draft to groom as a third quarterback and potential future backup, so Moore, who's had problems with accuracy and arm angle might not be his guy.
- 2014 Outlook: If Linehan lands somewhere as an offensive coordinator, expect Moore to follow him. It's perhaps his only shot of sticking around in the NFL at this point in time, considering his small sample size and questionable quarterbacking background.
Next week, we'll recap the solid contributions of the running backs, all of whom did a fantastic job driving the offense and providing a once nonexistent ground attack with teeth.
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