Camp Notebook: Typical Calvin Johnson; OL vs. DL; practice report and more

Posted Jul 28, 2013

Tim Twentyman on Calvin Johnson's dedication, offensive and defensive line battles and other observations from Lions' camp

Calvin Johnson stood at the microphone and took questions from the media for a little more than four minutes after practice Sunday. Then went right back onto the field to catch footballs from the jugs machine.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson

Typical Johnson. He's never satisfied with just being the best receiver on the planet ... even coming off a monster 2012 season that saw him break Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964.

It's only three days into training camp and already Johnson is diving for footballs, going up in crowds to catch balls and regularly amazing both the fans and his teammates.

"I didn't really understand what a freak of nature he is until I got here and saw some of the stuff he does," said running back Reggie Bush of Johnson.

But Johnson is never satisfied. He's always trying to improve as a receiver and it's no different entering his seventh season.

"For me, being a taller guy, it really never changes," Johnson said of what he's trying to work on heading into this season. "You have to work on your footwork. Shorten up your stride. Working on your hands at the line of scrimmage because guys want to get their hands on you to keep you from getting downfield. You have to work on staying low."

The Lions are hoping Johnson gets a little more help this season and doesn't have to carry the receiving load by himself. But, like always, Johnson is preparing himself in case he'll have to.

"You guys know what he is like,"  head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He is going to go get the ball, he is going to go out of bounds, he is going to toe tap, and he is going to dive. It is a pleasure to watch a guy like that practice.

"He is one of the best players in the National Football League. He always goes out here and works like he is trying to make the team."

OL vs. DL

One of the better drills to watch when the pads come on at practice is the offensive line vs. defensive line pass rush drills. Each matchup is given two reps against one another and the object for the defender is to knock a hanging bag (representing the quarterback) off its rope behind the offensive lineman.

Left tackle Riley Reiff was very good against Willie Young. So was left guard Rob Sims against Nick Fairley and Dominic Raiola against C.J. Mosley.

There were a few highlights for the defense, though. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah showed terrific speed and power and won his matchup vs. Derek Hardman. Ndamukong Suh looked good vs. Dylan Gandy. Everyone seemed to get a kick out the energy provided by Spencer Nealy as he got the better of Darren Keyton.

Overall though, this observer thought the offensive line won the day.


The Lions were still without Ronnell Lewis, Leroy Harris and Devin Thomas, who remain on the physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists.

The team was also without the services of cornerback Ron Bartell (shoulder) and linebacker Carmen Messina (hamstring).

Bartell suffered a right shoulder injury attempting to break up a pass on Saturday and Schwartz said the shoulder was still sore, but he remains day-to-day.

Cornerback Jonte Green left practice midway through with a hamstring injury.

"His hamstring was a little tight early in practice," Schwartz said. "I thought he was practicing really well in the beginning. We'll see how that goes. It didn't look like it was any more than a day-to-day type thing."

Schwartz said the Lions are trying to be more preemptive on minor injuries like the one Green dealt with Sunday.

"We talked to the guys about trying to identify stuff early in practice," Schwartz said. "We've had some situations in the past where a guy will tweak something and won't tell anybody and try to push through it, and it makes it worse.

"One of the things that we talk to them all about this year was trying to alleviate that by identifying right away and talking to the trainers. That way we can make decisions like we did with Jonte today. Hopefully we can head it off at the pass and it's a one-day thing or a two-day thing instead of a two-week thing."

Safety Louis Delmas returned to the practice field and went through individual drills and participated in some 7-on-7 snaps before being shut down.


"If our corners can cover, for sure," Schwartz said. "I think Chris Houston has had a good start to camp. We have talked about (Darius) Slay, Bill Bentley. It doesn't end there. We have some guys that have good size and good cover ability.

"It does allow you to do a little bit more. How much is yet to be seen and that will be something that will develop through training camp and our preseason games and even something that will develop through the season."

The Lions blitzed 32.5 percent of the time on 3rd down last year and 13.1 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively, on 1st and 2nd down, according to Stats, LLC.

It's been noticeable how much better the secondary looks in this camp. More hands on footballs and more incomplete passes by the offense. If that continues, it might give defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham some freedom to be more aggressive.