LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Megatron welcoming the blitz; Warford gaining confidence and more

Posted Sep 19, 2013

Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson hasn't gotten a lot of opportunities to make plays down the field, but that could change against the blitzing Redskins defense

If there’s one thing the Detroit Lions know about the Washington Redskins defense it’s that they like to blitz – a lot.

"We better have our heads up on this one because they bring it from everywhere," guard Rob Sims said.

Asked if it more base blitzes or the exotic variety, Sims said: "It’s more on the exotic side. They run them well."

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has a reputation as a blitzing playing caller on defense and Washington is brining pressure about 44 percent of the time opponents drop back to pass so far this year.

While Sims and the offensive line can expect to have their hands full on Sunday, there’s one man on offense welcoming the blitz. The more the merrier, in fact.

"We will have some opportunities," said receiver Calvin Johnson. "We will see some stuff, they’re going to blitz, and we have to take what he gives us. When they blitz us we have to be able to counter that."

Johnson is hoping that means more opportunities to make plays down the field. The Lions have done a good job of taking what the defense gives them, and beating defenses with the underneath stuff, but Johnson is hoping to catch the Redskins in the blitz once or twice with the right play call on to make a big play down the field.

"You have to be ready for that one chance you get because there isn’t going to be a lot," he said. "So when you do get it you have to take advantage of it."

Johnson beat the Cardinals last week with a 77-yard touchdown catch, but it came off a short slant and long run. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to get the ball down the field to Johnson.

"You can’t get frustrated," said Johnson, who has 10 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns in two games.

"Your opportunity will come, whether it be a short ball and you have to run it and if you’re getting impatient and worrying about that you’re going to miss your next opportunity."

Stafford says he's excited about taking some shots if the opportunity presents itself.

"We’re playing a defensive coordinator this week that likes to pressure, likes to bring blitzes, and it’s exciting for us as an offense to have an aggressive coordinator against us," Stafford said.

WARFORD’S CONFIDENCE GROWING

Lions rookie center Larry Warford was recently listed on the website ProFootballFocus.com as No. 3 in their Rookie of the Year polling after two weeks.

"Sam Martin mentioned it and I didn’t even know what the website was," Warford said today when told about it. "I guess I need to go look at it.

"That’s pretty awesome that I’m getting recognized, but it doesn’t matter much to me. I’m just trying to get better."

It’s certainly way too early to start talking about post-season awards, but the early praise being bestowed on Warford has been earned. He’s played well through the first two weeks of the season and says his confidence is getting back to where it was when he was dominating the SEC at Kentucky.

"I wasn’t the most confident player when I first got here and through all the reps I got, especially during the preseason, I found myself building that back up to where it was in college," he said.

Warford should be a confident player right now, according to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

"He is starting as a rookie, that is hard to do in this league," Linehan said.

"He went through the rookie pains but quickly progressed. I think he has played very well. It’s definitely winning football for us. We’re really happy with him. We were able to put him in there and so far he has played pretty darn good."

BEING BETTER ON THIRD DOWN

Linehan and the Lions have to do a much better job moving forward of being better third down.

The Lions are converting on the "money down" just 33.3 percent of the time this year, which ranks 23rd in the NFL.

Some of that is play calling and some of it is simple execution. The Lions have missed opportunities to make plays too many tomes so far on third down.

"Two weeks in a row we have been great in the first half on third down," Linehan said. "We weren’t as good Week 1 and we were nonexistent in Week 2, so we have to step it up in that category."

The Lions were 5-of-13 (38 percent) on third down in a Week 1 win over Minnesota. That dropped to 27 percent (3-of-11) in last week’s loss in Arizona and the Lions were 0-for-5 in the second half after having the lead at halftime.