And if Calvin Johnson retires, Stafford will have even more doubt to carry and defeat. Many consider Stafford to be a beneficiary of Johnson’s elite abilities. Certainly, the two formed a thrilling duo. Johnson has also enjoyed continuity at the QB position. It’s helped him develop chemistry and rapport.
But Stafford benefits more than Calvin does. Even when Johnson isn’t getting the ball, defenses deploy exotic schemes and packages to hinder him. Space is cleared for other receivers, and Stafford has the ability to exploit some openings. If Johnson departs, defenses don’t have a 6-foot-5 freakish athlete to deter.
Stafford has always struggled to decipher defensive coverages and better his other receivers. If Johnson departs, it’ll be fascinating to see how Stafford will continue to develop and play.
He’ll need to rely more on his mind and less on his arm. There won’t be anymore heaving the ball deep and watching Johnson out-leap numerous defenders for a spectacular grab. Stafford will need to take a more calculated approach. Fellow receivers won’t have the same coverage luxuries as before; they’ll be more dependent upon Stafford’s accuracy and audibles.
Ultimately, Stafford has more to prove now than he ever has. Johnson has always been his crutch. Without the star receiver lining up and intimidating opposing defenses, Stafford’s road to greatness will be that much harder. If he comes out, fires away and garners the big numbers, criticisms will subside. But if he collapses and continues to struggle, it’ll further the naysayers’ beliefs about him.
Whatever the case is, Stafford will need to be ready. Detroit will only go as far as he can take it.