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Lions' backup QB Daniel on Stafford: 'He's a wizard'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Chase Daniel has been around the block a time or two during his decade-long NFL career, but the veteran quarterback still has the capacity to be impressed. 

And even though he and Matthew Stafford go way back, coming up together through the Dallas high school football scene, the Lions new backup quarterback can't help but be blown away by some of the things Stafford is able to do, on and off the field. 

"For me, it was just seeing in the first month or so just how smart he is," Daniel said. "He's a wizard, man. It's impressive. His recall of plays, the photographic memory, all that stuff that you want in a quarterback, is impressive, and it makes you want to work harder."

When you watch a quarterback play, the mental aspect of the game sometimes gets lost in the physical gifts. Often, the first thing opposing coaches and defensive players talk about when it comes to Stafford is his arm strength and ability to make all the throws. 

Lions' Matthew Stafford throws during drills at Detroit Lions training camp.

Not surprisingly, that aspect of Stafford's abilities haven't escaped Daniel, either. 

"Staff just continues to blow my mind on some of these throws, whether it's watching it in the film room or we're seeing it live," Daniel said. "I mean, he's got a live arm and (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) keeps calling (downfield shots). Bev is aggressive."

Stafford's aggressiveness and arm strength was on full display during Saturday's scrimmage, threading a pair of long touchdown throws to Kenny Golladay. Camp hasn't been without its hiccups, but for the most part, Stafford appears to be on top of his game. 

That's welcome news for the Lions. After ending last season on injured reserve, snapping one of the longest start streaks for a quarterback in NFL history, Stafford is back at full strength. The Lions are hopeful he'll be able to recapture the form he was playing at through eight games last season, where he was being mentioned as an early MVP contender. 

"He’s dialed in, locked into the coaching, the teaching, practice, meetings, his leadership has been outstanding," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "I think he’s fired up every day out there. He’s competing really hard and wants everything to be perfect, and you love the drive of everything that he does right now. It’s been great, it’s been unbelievable and for me. It's been awesome just to watch him take that upon himself to push the team, and from that aspect of it, I couldn’t be more appreciative."

But if Stafford's body were to betray him again, the Lions brought in Daniel as an insurance policy this offseason. The team can afford a repeat of last season, when they went 0-8 without their starter. 

David Blough was forced to shoulder a lot of that load as an undrafted rookie a year ago. And despite getting off to a hot start in his debut, he finished his five-game audition completing 54.0 percent of his passes with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (four). 

To his credit, Blough looks much improved this offseason. With the benefit of a year in the system, he's often performed better than Daniel during practice, temporarily flipping what should be a mentor-mentee relationship on its head. 

"Shoot, I remember when I was that young," Daniel said. "It was a long time ago and he's just going out there trying to make plays and doing such a good job. I mean, he's got a better grasp of the offense than me, so I'm really the one playing catch up. If anything, he's the one mentoring me on the offense."

The age gap between Stafford and Daniel and the much-younger Blough has also been a source of comic relief in the quarterback room. Like the veterans, Blough also grew up in the Dallas area. 

"Blough is a baby, and, you know, Staff and I are sort of grandpas right now," Daniel said. "We're going on 12 years and he's going into his second. We still joke with him that he's a rookie until six weeks in, until he gets that accrued season. He doesn't like that too much, but he's a good sport.

"We'll talk about old Texas high school football, old legends, or maybe someone we played in 2010 or 2011," Daniel said. "(Blough) is just like, 'Who is that? I was in grade school.' It's pretty funny to see his reactions."