Stafford and Johnson Get In Sync

Posted May 20, 2010

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have a lot to be excited about.

Not only do they each have an arsenal of weapons around them to make their respective jobs easier, they have had a full offseason of working together to improve their chemistry.

“We were injured and weren’t playing 100-percent, really, at all last year,” said Stafford. “I was the rookie (and) this was his first year in a new offense. Just having the second offseason together has really helped us out.”

Stafford and Johnson have been able to work together four times a week on most weeks, whether the days include regular workouts or OTAs.

They have worked on timing and gotten plenty of reps together along with the rest of the receiving corps.

“You can get a lot more single coverage when you add guys like Nate (Burleson) and all these receivers that we have,” said Johnson.

“Then the tight ends we brought in like Tony (Scheffler) and Will (Heller) out there – when everybody’s doing their thing it makes it a lot easier on everybody else.”

In addition to that group is second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who has been working throughout the offseason to come off a season-ending knee injury suffered on Thanksgiving last year.

“We don’t have all our guys healthy yet, but once we do, it’ll be a lot of fun to really get a lot of work in with the best guys,” said Stafford. “But the guys we’ve got going right now are going hard and we’re doing pretty well.”

Another compliment to both Stafford and Johnson is Detroit’s improved running game.

Third-year tailback Kevin Smith is coming off a knee injury, but has looked good throughout his rehab process. The Lions also added rookie Jahvid Best as the 30th-overall selection in this year’s draft.

“We’ve got a lot of speed at the running back position (and) we’ve got a couple different styles of running backs, so that’s real good for us,” said Johnson. “It’s hard for one guy to be the workhorse for the whole season.”

While the offense has looked good thus far during the offseason program, there won’t be a true benchmark until the Lions suit up against an actual opponent.

For now, the objective is to work on technique and timing so scheme can be the primary focal point once the preseason begins.

Still, Stafford says he is allowing himself to get excited for the upcoming season.

“Why not?” he said. “We’ve got some great players. Obviously it doesn’t mean anything – wins and losses or anything like that – right now, but optimism is there. We’ve been spreading the ball around and playing well.”

Optimism also stems from the fact that players like Stafford and Johnson are entering their second year in the same offense.

“He knows the offense better and I know the offense better just because it’s the second year,” said Stafford of he and Johnson. “He’s going to understand his role.

“We (will) get single-high defense, so we’ve got to attack the defense and get the ball to him because it’s a mismatch for everybody.”

Johnson is enjoying his familiarity with both the system and the NFL.

“To see all the people coming together and then at the same time being in it for the time I’ve been in it these last three years, I’m learning more and more each year,” he said. “So it is getting easier and easier for me.”