Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/26/11
ALLEN PARK, Mich. There is an obvious reason that every move Matthew Stafford makes this week is being scrutinized and dissected for clues on whether hell be healthy enough to start Sunday against the Denver Broncos. In the short span of seven games this season, Stafford has shown his value to the Lions. Staffords elite passing arm gives them an edge at quarterback that they havent had on a consistent basis in decades. He is a quarterback worth protecting and evaluating. Stafford's been so good overall in the first seven games that when he plays average or slightly below average, speculation begins on whether hes regressing or if some flaw has developed in his throwing motion. Its not hyperbole or overreaction to say that Stafford has given the Lions an edge at quarterback this season. That includes losses to San Francisco and Atlanta in the past two games. In six of the seven games, his passer rating has been higher than the opposing quarterback's. The exception was against Dallas, and in that game Cowboys starter Tony Romo had three passes intercepted and two returned for touchdowns. Through seven games, Stafford is sixth in the NFL in passer rating (95.5), tied for third in touchdown passes (16), and second behind Tom Brady in percentage of interceptions (four interceptions, 1.5 percent) for quarterbacks with 200 or more pass attempts. Because of questions about his ankle injury, Staffords every move was scrutinized Wednesday during the portion of practice open to the media. Stafford was in full uniform helmet and pads but did little more than throw passes during the warm-up session at the start of practice. Stafford dropped back gingerly, perhaps to throw. He didnt put any real pressure on his right ankle. Stafford did not take part in the next segment of practice, with an offensive line and receivers running patterns. Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton took snaps while Stafford watched. At one point in the warm-up session, Stafford retied the laces on his right shoe. Double knot, a media member joked. Later, when Hill and Stanton had taken over, a member of the equipment staff emerged from the locker room with a new right shoe for Stafford. Stafford joked about the change when he talked to reporters after practice. It was the wrong size, he said. The shoe was a little too big, honestly. Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz did not speculate about whether Stafford will play Sunday. If Im healthy enough to play, Im going to be out there, Stafford said. Schwartz does not comment specifically on the prognosis of players recovering from injuries, and he gave a predictable answer to the obvious question about Staffords time frame for recovery. Hes getting better every day, Schwartz said. Hopefully, we can keep him on that track. If he's able to go on Sunday, then he will. Hes our starting quarterback. The Lions have a bye after Sunday, and Schwartz and Stafford were adamant in saying Stafford will not be held back Sunday to give him an extra week to heal. Stafford seemed almost amused about speculation that his throwing motion has changed significantly in the past couple of weeks from overhand to sidearm. In the times he has thrown sidearm, it looked like it was a reaction to the pass rush and finding passing lanes. I threw a touchdown pass sidearm in the preseason, Stafford said. In the first half against San Francisco in Week 6, Stafford rolled left and shoveled a pass ahead to Nate Burleson, who dropped it. It was like a basketball play, with a point guard leading the break. I was running for my life, Stafford said. Thats just playing ball, and trying to make something happen. Here is how Stafford has matched up against opposing quarterbacks in the first seven games: Matchup Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int. Rating Josh Freeman, Bucs Stafford 43 33 28 24 257 305 1 3 1 1 78.1 118.9 Matt Cassell, Chiefs Stafford 23 39 15 23 133 294 0 4 3 1 44.5 106.1 Donovan McNabb, Vikings Stafford 36 46 22 32 211 378 1 2 1 0 86.7 108.8 Tony Romo, Cowboys Stafford 47 43 34 21 331 240 3 2 3 1 86.4 71.9 Jay Cutler, Bears Stafford 38 26 28 19 248 213 1 2 0 1 99.6 107.7 Alex Smith, 49ers Stafford 32 50 17 28 125 293 1 2 1 0 60.0 86.5 Matt Ryan, Falcons Stafford 34 32 20 15 218 183 1 1 1 0 63.1 75.4
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