For the past three seasons, one of the primary topics of conversation surrounding the Detroit Lions has been getting wide receiver
At 6-5 and 236 pounds, Johnson is a player who can win any one-on-one battle, but teams specifically scheme against him.
The Lions are hoping an offensive line-up with more weapons should open things up for Johnson, but that kind of work won’t begin until the season does in the fall.
For now, Johnson and his teammates are working through OTAs, which doesn’t include scheme and game plan. That means everything is bare bones and Johnson is left one-on-one with Detroit’s defensive backs – a reality he may not experience much of during the regular season.
So what is Johnson able to work on considering what he is up against during the offseason is so drastically different from what he is up against during the season?
“The biggest part about the offseason is really just working on my technique as far as getting in and out of routes and being able to sync my hips since I am a tall guy,” said Johnson. “That way I can get in and out of my routes quickly – quicker than smaller DBs.
“That’s what all the OTAs for me are about: just working on my technique because, when the season comes around, we’re really all just working on our schemes and stuff like that.”
Though Johnson’s physical stature is what sets him apart from other receivers in the league, his size comes with its own set of drawbacks.
One thing he is working on right now is dropping his hips – something tough to do after a significant amount of running.
“Being such a big guy, when you get tired, it burns to drop your hips when you’re doing all that running,” he said. “But this is the time to be able to do it to build up that endurance and be in shape so I can do it the whole game.”
Lining up against Johnson is one of the tough parts of being a defensive back for the Detroit Lions.
While they have the benefit of practicing against one of the premier athletes in the game, it is certainly a test to challenge him alone.
“He is a monster,” said Wade. “You don’t really understand until you see him every single day. He’s really that big and he’s really that fast and he’s as good as you think, which doesn’t happen a lot.”
Johnson has had positive impressions of the new players within the secondary so far this offseason, particularly Houston and Wade.
He knew Houston from working out with him when they were preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and has gotten a good look at Wade now that the team has gone through a handful of OTA days.
Beyond that, Johnson is pleased to see the defensive backs taking initiative to better their skills.
“I’m excited to see some of the guys like Wade and some of the other DBs that come and work on ball drills with our receivers coach, who has his own jugs machine,” he said.
“That’s exciting to see that, so we can get some picks out there in the secondary.”
Not only are those players working with the receivers to perfect their ball skills, they are picking the brains of players like Johnson so they can try to see what he sees.
One of the questions Johnson says is commonly asked by his teammates in the secondary is how he is able to recognize the ball so well.
“I just tell them, ‘You’ve got to find the point of the ball,’” he said. “’The ball has two points, one on each end, and if you can find that point and grab that point, you’ll be able to catch the ball every time.’
“But that’s something simple that a lot of guys aren’t taught. They just try to catch the ball, but there’s more to it than just trying to catch the ball. You’ve got to find that point of the ball so you can locate the ball and find it and recognize the speed of the ball.
“But that’s why I’m a receiver.”
This is the first year Johnson has really had players asking him questions like this and he sees it as a definite advantage.
“Before this year, we had a bunch of veteran cornerbacks,” he said. “So they’re not going to come to a new guy and ask questions like that.
“But we’ve got a lot of younger guys and it’s cool because they’re on my team. Right now we’re working against each other, but on Sunday we’re going to need them.”