August 1, 2014 at 1:00 am

Coaching trio tweaks Matthew Stafford's game

Allen Park — Jim Bob Cooter is the Lions quarterbacks coach, but isn’t the only one giving Matthew Stafford and the other signal callers advice.

Coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi regularly sit in on quarterback meetings, and the two will talk about drills, concepts and techniques they want Cooter to run.

“It’s a total group effort,” Cooter said Thursday.

And that was the idea the front office had in hiring Caldwell, Lombardi and Cooter during the offseason. Caldwell spent 10 years with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, and Cooter was with Manning for four — three in Indianapolis and last year with Denver. Lombardi spent seven years with New Orleans coaching Drew Brees.

All three bring a unique perspective on how to reverse Stafford’s regression in the past two seasons. And by all accounts, none have been coddling Stafford.

“He is open to anything that will help him become a better football player, lead the offense better,” Cooter said of how Stafford handles criticism.

Many of the drills the Lions have run with their quarterbacks are ones Cooter learned while coaching under Caldwell with the Colts. So far, the Lions have put an emphasis on improving footwork, and Cooter said there were some technical issues they wanted to correct.

The sidearm throws necessarily won’t be eliminated forever.

“There are times that that’s called for,” Cooter said. “There are times that you’re throwing it around a rusher. ... This is that time of year we work on technique and we get it all tightened up.”

Over the first few days of camp, Stafford has played with confidence and made some throws into tight spaces. He’s also missed some passes, particularly two Wednesday — badly — to new additions Golden Tate and Eric Ebron.

Of course, as Stafford gets his timing down with Tate and Ebron, they should help the offense significantly.

“We’re all greedy,” Cooter said. “If you can give us more offensive players that are going to get open, we generally like that, especially as a quarterback guy. ... The more guys that can get open and catch the ball in the pass game, the easier that thing becomes because there’s more guys the defense has to worry about.”

Stafford also will have more pre-snap control this season, but coaches are working to simplify the decision process. Cooter explained that many plays will have a built-in backup plan if the primary read isn’t open.

The Lions offense under Lombardi will be diverse. During camp Thursday, the Lions showed a five-wide look with Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettigrew as receivers.

“A lot of our emphasis is really narrowing down decision-making within this new offense that we’re all kind of learning,” Cooter said.

Stafford is excited about how the offense will look once he knows all the nuances. “When you can master it yourself, which takes time and effort, it’s proven it can be pretty successful,” he said.

And though the offense will look different and there are new weapons, the coaches are aware of who their top weapon is. Lombardi has talked glowingly about Calvin Johnson since being hired, and during practice, he pays close attention to how the receiver runs routes.

“Every NFL team pretty much tries to play to their strengths, and you look around and you see Calvin Johnson and you see a quarterback that can throw it a long way, it’s pretty easy to connect those two,” Cooter said.

“It probably makes sense to get it down the field a decent amount of time, and I’m sure that we will.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/jkatzenstein

'He is open to anything that will help him become a better football player, lead the offense better,' says Lions quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter of how Stafford handles criticism. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News