With Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the midst of what appears to be his best year to date, the Redskins' defense will look to create pressure to limit his ability to extend plays.
Experiencing up and down years is typical in the NFL. But for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, things have been trending on the negative side in recent memory.
The Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions have met 18 times during the regular season. Here's a look back at some of those games.
This year, however, it appears that things may be pointing up, especially for Stafford.
Entering Week 7 with a 3-3 record, the Lions are coming off two strong wins at home against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams. And the major impression from these wins is that this offense is not to be overlooked.
"You can tell [Stafford's] a great competitor. He's got the arm to make all the throws – the touch throws, the launch throws, drive it between two-three defender-type throws," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "He doesn't like to let a play get away from him. He's going to try to buy time in the pocket, scramble around, and he can rip it across his body or down the sideline or what have you. He's been great. He's got a great corps of receivers around him that are playing very well. He's a very dangerous guy. At any given time, the thing about him is he can hurt you. He's got great vision down the field."
Stafford's vision has led him to be one of the most accurate passers in the league so far this year. He is currently ranked second behind Viking's quarterback Sam Bradford in completion percentage (68.9 percent) among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts this year.
With the help of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Stafford is the midst of accumulating impressive statistics in a variety of areas. Through six games he has thrown for 1,648 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions, while averaging 7.77 yards per attempt and 6.95 yards per dropback, both career highs.
In addition to his high numbers through the air, Stafford, albeit in a very limited fashion, has impressed on the ground even, with 19 carries for 94 yards. He broke a career high in this area as well, completing a 24-yard run in Week 2.
The Redskins realize that preventing Stafford from getting comfortable in the pocket will be critical to stopping him from having time to create plays in the different ways that he can, including disguising exactly what the defense plans to do.
"[Stafford's] seen a lot of defenses, but when you make him read on the run and you don't allow him to see what you're playing pre-snap, it makes him think a little bit," safety Donte Whitner Sr. said. "Hopefully he doesn't have a clean pocket and be able to throw the ball down the field. We have to know that he really likes that hard count, see what we're playing and then he likes to go from there. We have to be poised pre-snap."
Despite wide receiver Calvin Johnson retiring in the offseason, Stafford has had no problem effectively getting the ball down field and creating plays with the group of receivers he has now. The Washington secondary will need to pay special attention to wide receiver Marvin Jones, who is tied for the most receptions on the team, 29, with receiver Anquan Boldin. Jones has become quite a threat all over the field, leading the team with 529 yards and four touchdowns.
A major part of Jones' success has come from Stafford's ability to extend plays in ways he may not have done so easily in years past.
"The thing that I've been really impressed with is the things he's been doing with his feet, escaping the pocket and running around," Whitner Sr. said. "There's a couple of times on there, I think five times in the last four or five games on third and 11 or 14, he probably ran for five first downs in that down and distance. So when you think of a guy like Stafford, you probably don't think of a guy that's a scrambler, but this year's he's been taking his game to another level in that aspect. We have to keep him in there, not allow him to use his feet, make it hard for him pre-snap and we should match up well."
He's right. The matchup certainly does appeared to be swayed in the Redskins' direction in terms of successfully getting pressure. The Lions have given up 15 sacks this year, while Washington has had no problem making opposing quarterbacks scramble. Coming off of last week's five-sack outing against the Eagles, the Redskins hope to expand on the pressure they have been able to create and add even more sacks on to their 16 so far this year.
With Stafford at the center, even with the diversity of weapons he has, making him uncomfortable might be the biggest factor in stopping this offense that has scored seven touchdowns in the past two games.
"[Stafford] can definitely get outside the pocket and extend plays. He can make every single throw, his arm is unreal," safety Will Blackmon said. "I have the utmost respect for Stafford, I joke around and call him a (Brett) Favre Jr. because I actually played with (Farve) for two years in Green Bay and a lot of similarities there."