Add FOXSports.com's John Czarnecki to the list of people taking a ride on the Detroit Lions bandwagon this offseason. Czarnecki declared the Lions one of five "winners" during the NFL lockout, citing Matthew Stafford's healthy display at Detroit's players-only camp.
4. Detroit Lions: The best news is that quarterback Matthew Stafford has been firing fastballs in the Lions’ player-only workouts. Boise State rookie Titus Young said his hands hurt from catching all those throws. Stafford's right shoulder sounds bionic now after corrective surgery. General manager Martin Mayhew has expertly improved the team’s personnel since taking over from Matt Millen, and now the key will be to see how much the Lions spend to improve their secondary in free agency.
It's kind of hard to argue that any team has really taken major steps forward during this extended lockout — and you could also certainly argue that an up-and-coming team like Detroit's needed minicamps more than most franchises — but seeing Stafford back was clearly a bright spot during this down time.
Will that be enough to overcome missing all this time that the Lions could've had to continue growing under Jim Schwartz's leadership? We won't know that answer until games actually begin.
What we do know is that the players-only workouts helped Stafford get into a little bit of a rhythm with guys like Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure, who both will be key cogs as rookies. Detroit has the benefit of returning its coaching staff from last season and a ton of its pieces on offense, meaning that the learning curve shouldn't be all too steep once things get going.
Internally, there's more faith in Shaun Hill than there is externally — most of the hype surrounding the Lions involves Stafford's health. And while he's a major talent when he's on the field, Hill showed the ability to move the offense and win some games. Detroit may not have the high upside under Hill that it would have under Stafford, but he's a viable backup.
But the Lions are hoping, for once, that it doesn't come to that. If Stafford stays on the field, it's apparent that Detroit's chances improve, something that the national media knows as well.
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