Matthew Stafford led the Detroit Lions to their second playoff appearance in three seasons last year and head coach Jim Caldwell couldn’t be any more impressed with the leader of his team.

Stafford completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, steering the Lions to a 9-7 record and a wild-card appearance.

Although Stafford is entrenched as the face of the franchise, Caldwell believes he could reach a new level during the upcoming season.

“When we got here we found out some other things about him that you just didn’t see on film: His toughness, his intelligence, his desire. And all of those things, I think, without question rub off on his teammates,” Caldwell said of Stafford to Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network.

“He’s also unflappable in very, very tight situations. And he’s improving. That’s the other thing I think you find with guys at that position in this league: When they get to around their fifth, sixth, seventh year, there’s still a climb, there’s still an ascension. You can see the direction in which they’re going. Stats don’t always tell the story, but I think when you couple that with wins it does. And Matthew certainly is on the rise.”

It’s a daunting proposition that Stafford could continue to improve entering his ninth season. For the time being, NFC North opponents are likely praying that Caldwell’s assessment proves to be incorrect.

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