Get ready for the Calvin Johnson effect

Posted Aug 19, 2014

Friday will be the first time the coaches will see how opposing defenses try and handle Calvin Johnson.

There is only so much 11 players on defense can do to stop a potent offense like the Detroit Lions, with as dynamic a player as Calvin Johnson among its features.

Head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi have simulated just about every one of those scenarios in training camp practices with their All-Pro Johnson, but for the first time this season they’ll get to see it live in a game vs. some else’s defense.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Johnson is scheduled to play for the first time this preseason vs. Jacksonville at Ford Field on Friday. That means for the first time these coaches will have an opportunity to see how an opponent might scheme to stop Megatron in this new offense.

For the first time they'll see how a team reacts to Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Reggie Bush on the field together in this scheme.

“There are different things that require a different reaction depending on how they deal with him,” Caldwell said. “Depending on how they deal with him on a coverage standpoint, sometimes opens things up maybe on your passing game on the opposite side, or inside on the same side, or with your running game.

“The most important thing is to give him an opportunity to play. This is the first time this year that he’ll be in a contest. So I’m looking forward to letting him get out there a little bit and see how it goes.”

Coaches can simulate the looks a defense might show against this offense in practice all they want, but there’s a difference between practice and game. And there are always a few surprises an opponent can throw into the game plan.

The Lions are excited to showcase all their weapons together for the first time, and that especially goes for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I think this week will be a good barometer for that,” Stafford said of seeing how all the piece fit together. “I think we knew kind of how teams liked to play him in the system we were running in years past, but this one is a new one and he’s in different spots.

“It will be an interesting challenge not only for defenses trying to figure out where he’s going to be and stop him, and all of that, but for us to counteract that as well.”

Players like Tate and Ebron are looking forward to seeing what the kind of matchups Johnson’s presence on the field might mean for them.

“Anxious to see how defenses treat situations,” Ebron said. “If you have high caliber players there are only certain ways teams can play you. Depending on how they want to go about their defense, somebody is going to be open. That’s the way it is.

“(We) have very high caliber athletes, so someone is going to be open, hopefully we can just make those plays.”

Ebron is hoping he and Tate and the rest of the "other" weapons can help Johnson make a few plays Friday night. What might end up being the case, however, is Johnson’s presence helping all those players make more plays.

That is why general manager Martin Mayhew went out and secured the services of players like Tate and Ebron this offseason.

“It’ll be nice to have the full stable of guys out there,” Stafford said. “It’ll be fun to get out there with all the weapons at my disposal and go out there and play.”

It should be fun to watch, too.