Stafford won’t miss facing Lions defense

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is looking forward to the regular season for more reasons than playing meaningful games.

“I’m going to be happy not to go against our defense for a while,” he said during the Lions’ annual kickoff luncheon Wednesday at Ford Field.

Stafford admitted that going against the same defense every day for a month “gets old,” but mostly, he meant that he wants to see a defense that isn’t as good as the one that’s entering Year 2 under coordinator Teryl Austin.

Even though the Lions lost their top defensive player, All-Pro tackle Ndamukong Suh, the players don’t expect to have a fall off after ranking second overall and third in points allowed.

Obviously, Stafford wasn’t going to disparage his teammates in front of about 920 people at the luncheon hosted by the Detroit Economic Club, but as efficient as Stafford was in camp, there were several plays on which the offense had little room to run or struggled to keep defenders away from the quarterbacks.

“They picked up right where they left off,” Stafford said. “I complain about it all the time in our quarterback room. Trying to get a coverage read on these two safeties (Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo) is as hard as anything I have to do all day. They’re so good at disguising, they do a great job of hiding blitzes and ... you can tell it’s the second year in the system for these guys.”

Similarly, Quin said the starting defensive backs talked early in camp about how quickly the offense was moving in practice, a sign that unit is more comfortable in the second year with coordinator Joe Lombardi. The offense, though, has more reason to be optimistic as the biggest losses on that side were center Dominic Raiola, left guard Rob Sims and running back Reggie Bush, all of whom struggled. Now, the Lions will lean on the youth of second-year center Travis Swanson, first-round guard Laken Tomlinson and second-round running back

As much fun as Stafford said it’s been playing with his offensive teammates, the typically humble quarterback had more to say about the defense.

“I love watching our defense play when we’re (not) on offense,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re exciting to watch when they’re on the sideline, too.”

And Quin offered a reason the Lions defense could be among the top run-stopping units after ranking first in that category last year.

“(Coaches) tell us all the time, ‘If you don’t know what to do, just go fast,’ ” he said. “That’s part of stopping the run — everybody playing hard, everybody going fast and getting to the ball.”