Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said the plan heading into Thursday’s preseason finale in Buffalo was to get a good evaluation of his receiving corps. He told reporters after the 35-13 victory that he was able to make some "good" evaluations, despite the lopsided score.
The Lions have some tough decisions to make at the receiver positions before today's 6 p.m. deadline to trim the roster to 53 players.
Do they keep four or five receivers? Who is the fifth if it’s five?
Over the last three preseason games, the Lions were able to evaluate all the receivers still on their roster based on their physical talents and one-on-one matchups. However, they haven’t been able to get a true look at how all the pieces might fit together with the best receiver on the planet.
"You get evaluation of what they do, but not really how they fit from a standpoint of how defensive coordinators handle it," Schwartz said of the evaluation process in the preseason.
That's because the Lions faced more six-man boxes than any team in the NFL last year because of the impact Johnson has on defenses. There were double and triple teams and exotic coverages that left opportunities for other players.
That’s the hard part about evaluating these Detroit Lions receivers in the preseason. Coaches had to predict how their skill sets would fit into looks they're more likely to see in the regular season and positions they’re more likely to play starting next week vs. Minnesota.
"The only reason it’s different is because guys are in different positions," veteran receiver
Even against the Jets, when Johnson did play, the Jets defense played him straight up in a vanilla scheme.
"You saw Calvin make all those catches in the first quarter of the game or first two series of the game because they were just playing him straight up," Schwartz said of Johnson’s three catches for 58 yards in the game.
That's why it's always difficult to look too much into the preseason. It’s really not a good interpretation of what the regular season might hold for the unit.
The preseason is good to see guys try to physically win match ups and get some of the kinks out, but when the chess game of the regular season begins, and all the pawns are in place, things are likely to look a little different, and so might the production levels.
Here’s the production from the WR position this preseason: