Interview with Dave Razzano by Dewey Hammond.
Dave Razzano is a former NFL scout and Playmaker Mobile correspondent with more than 22 years of professional scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals under NFL coaches including Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Chuck Knox and Dick Vermeil. He's been a part of five Super Bowls with three Super Bowl wins (49ers, 1989, 1990; Rams, 2000).
Q: What do you expect from Stafford in his second season?
A: I love Matt Stafford. He's a Pro Bowl talent who is only going to get better. They finally have their quarterback of the future. He's got a great arm, he's accurate, but he has to stay healthy and they have to surround him with better players, which now I think they're doing. They got Nate Burleson now, and of course Calvin Johnson needs to stay healthy. They've got a great running back in Jahvid Best, and their tight ends are pretty good. Brandon Pettigrew is more of a blocker, and Tony Scheffler, he's another guy who needs to stay healthy. He's more of a receiving tight end. They've put talent around Stafford and they have a nice offensive line. They're an ascending team. I think GM Martin Mayhew has done a very nice job working that roster and adding quality players.
Q: Calvin Johnson, you've said, has lower-body stiffness and he takes a lot of shots. If he gets injured who is going to step up?
A: I think Bryant Johnson needs to really step up. He's their third receiver. I was with him when I worked and he played in Arizona. The thing that holds him back is work ethic. He's not a great practice guy. He has talent. He is a talented kid but he needs to step up. Now, Calvin Johnson, he's a little overrated to me. He's one of those height/weight/speed giants. He's more of a down-the-field threat than an intermediate route runner. He's not extremely quick and sudden. He's more of a build-up guy down the field. If he's injured, Bryant Johnson needs to step up because he has the tools.
Q: What about the running game? Do you expect anything from Kevin Smith?
A: Kevin Smith, to me, has always been a fringe player. He's a slower-twitch guy, a long strider. Not very tough. I think he's going to fall by the wayside. He's a third-tier or fourth-tier player while rookie RB Jahvid Best is a home run. Jahvid Best is a big-time talent. When you see him live he's one of the fastest, most explosive open-field runners you'll see. I've seen him live a couple times. His acceleration is rare. As a rookie you'll see big plays from him. Kevin Smith is a fringe starter, in my book.
Q: Who on the defense is a bright spot, and who is a glaring weakness?
A: A bright spot is obviously rookie Ndamukong Suh. He'll be an impact player right off the bat. Another bright spot is safety Louis Delmas. He's a Pro Bowl talent, and outstanding safety. He was the best safety in the draft when he came out. Him and Ndamukong Suh, and Vanden Bosch, he helps the pass rush. Also linebacker Julian Peterson. He's overrated but he's still solid. He's just not the all-out motor competitor but he is an athletic guy who can make plays. And I like Chris Houston, the cornerback they got from the Falcons. He was a first-round cinch a few years back. For whatever reason he didn't pan out in Atlanta but he's now starting at cornerback, and boy, I think he can really help them. He's a talent. The Lions have building blocks but they need to keep adding pieces to the puzzle.
Q: Instead of going winless in Stafford's rookie season, the Lions improved and won two games, but neither of those was in the division. How will they fare this year against their NFC North rivals?
A: I think they're still the bottom team but I see six or seven wins with their QB and their good young defense. I think they're going to be very competitive. This is a good team, as good as they've had in six or seven years. They're going to surprise people and win games but they're still a few years away. They just need to keep adding players around Stafford.