Matthew Stafford receives little respect throughout the league. Up to this point, it is deserved. The argument has become a running joke. He's the only quarterback in the league with a playbook that only has one play in it: Throw to Calvin Johnson.
In an emergency, when the football game world is falling apart, there are few options that are better. But what started as an excellent option became the crux of Stafford's game plan. One dimensional offenses do not have much success in the NFL. Last year this offense wasn't even one dimensional. It was more like a fixed point.
This year Jim Caldwell is attempting to improve Matthew Stafford's play and, by extension, the entire offensive scheme. We already know Matthew Stafford can throw touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson. He doesn't need any more practice. With that in mind, Calvin Johnson can't take another snap with Stafford until Sept 8th.
When Calvin sat out with injury last year, the offense absolutely collapsed. Stafford looked lost. The running game disappeared. That is what Caldwell and Lombardi need to focus on now. If they can get this team to succeed without Calvin Johnson, they will be infinitely better with him.
But with Calvin Johnson working with the first team, it gives Stafford the option of slipping back into the same lazy tendencies he fell into last year.
This need for growth is not exclusively for Stafford either. Stafford started his tunnel vision mostly because the rest of the offense lost his trust. They ran bad routes. They didn't possess balls before running. They tipped balls to opponents. They dropped everything they could get their hands on. On that level, its hard to blame Stafford for giving up and going with Johnson. While he had his share of drops too, the possibility for a dynamic play was far greater.
The rest of the offense needs to earn Stafford's trust again. The first team and Stafford need as much time as possible to demonstrate they can work together. They need to be forced to work together and make this offense work without Calvin Johnson.
Calvin Johnson has demonstrated himself to be a team player. He would likely understand. If he needed practice just to warm up, he could work with the second team. Kellen Moore might want to build his entire scheme around Calvin Johnson but so what? If Kellen Moore ends up running the offense for significant time in 2014, the Lions are sunk anyway. And if the Lions lose every other game in the preseason, we'll gladly take it if it means they will play more diversely, more consistently, and more effectively in the regular season.
But in order for that to happen, the first team has to have their hand forced. The only way to really force them to improve is to take Calvin Johnson out of the equation. Calvin Johnson can't play another snap with the first team until Sept 8th.