With Stafford, Lions Must Lead NFL in Deep Pass Rate in 2020
Keep dialing up the deep ball, Darrell Bevell.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions threw the deep pass 15.4 percent of the time in 2019 -- the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
In Bevell's first season calling plays for the Lions, the organization's longtime franchise passer Matthew Stafford experienced a significant uptick in productivity.
He threw for 19 touchdowns and 2,499 yards in just eight games. He suffered a season-ending back injury in Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders.
While throwing for nearly 20 TDs, he threw just five interceptions, finishing with an interception rate of 1.7 -- his lowest interception rate since 2010.
And it all came while he threw the deep ball a league-leading 19.2 percent of the time, according to PFF.
The 12th-year passer was also on pace for a significant amount of more touchdowns and passing yards than he finished with while playing in a full 16 games in 2018.
During the '18 campaign when ex-Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was still calling the plays, Stafford -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft -- finished with 21 passing TDs and 3,777 yards through the air.
Cooter's time as OC (2016-18) saw the Lions throw the deep ball at a 10.9 percent clip, which ranked 25th in the league during that three-year span.
The change from Cooter to Bevell rejuvenated Stafford's career.
And it also doesn't hurt that the former Georgia passer has an elite No. 1 wideout in Kenny Golladay to throw to.
Golladay came down with five TD receptions of 25 yards or more a year ago -- tied for the league lead in the department, according to Pro Football Focus.
There's no doubt in my mind that if Stafford and Golladay each stay healthy for an entire season, Stafford will finish with a deep pass rate that hovers around 20 percent and is good enough to lead the league.
And Stafford finishing with a league-leading deep pass rate is a must if the Lions' offense wants to be clicking on all cylinders in 2020.