MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Final Thoughts: Johnson active at Jacksonville

Posted Nov 4, 2012

JACKSONVILLE -- Calvin Johnson gets extra attention during games, and he was closely watched long before kickoff of Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

Johnson was out early with other Lions teammates to test his ailing left knee. Johnson had a wrap on the knee from mid-thigh to above the calf muscle.

He went through a series drills on the sideline that are not related to running routes or catching passes. Among the drills were hopping on one leg – he did it on both legs – and a quick shuffle drill to test his quickness and mobility.

For the first time this season, he did not practice during the week. He has missed an occasional day of practice to rest but never took off a full practice week.

Johnson was listed as active for the game, but there was speculation that his playing time might be reduced.

Johnson caught only three passes in last week’s victory over Seattle but played 68 of 73 offensive plays, more than any other Lions receiver. Titus Young played 67, as did tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Cover-up: EverBank Field is the old Gator Bowl, and the site has been home to the Jaguars since they entered the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1994. It was renovated before the Jaguars moved in and played their first game.

The Jaguars haven’t been much of a fan attraction in recent seasons – partly because of a losing record, and competition from golf and the University of Florida.

Attendance has been reduced by covering up a wide section of one endzone, and the top corners of the upper decks of the sideline stands.

It makes the stadium look like Oakland – without the charm.

Oakland and charm – two words that you’d never think would be used together.
 
Secondary issues: The defensive staffs of the Lions and Jaguars could compare notes on how to rebuild a secondary on the fly. Both teams have had to do patch jobs because of injuries.

The Lions went into Sunday’s game minus three projected starters. Out were rookie cornerback Bill Bentley (shoulder), and safeties Amari Spievey (concussion) and Louis Delmas (injured surgically-repaired knee). Expected to be missing for Jacksonville were both cornerbacks - Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox.

Mathis is from Jacksonville and was drafted by the Jags in the second round in 2003. Cox was a third-round pick out of William & Mary in ’09.

Cox has two of Jacksonville’s four interceptions. No other Jaguars had a pick.
 
Firsts: The Lions’ defense is getting a good look at the NFL’s first-round quarterback draft class in 2011. Gabbert is the third QB the Lions have faced who was drafted in the first round last year. The also already have faced - and lost to - Jake Locker of the Titans and Christian Ponder of the Vikings.

Of the Lions’ first seven opponents, Seattle’s Russell Wilson was the only QB who was not drafted in the first round. Sam Bradford of the Rams, Michael Vick of the Eagles and Alex Smith of the 49ers all were drafted first overall. Jay Cutler of the Bears was a first-round pick – by Denver in 2006. Vick was taken by Atlanta in 2001.
 
Odds: The betting line moved in favor of the Lions as the week went on. It opened with the Lions favored by 4.5 points but went as high as six points an hour before kickoff.

Bringing heat: The pass rush is vital to the Lions’ defense in terms of protecting a battered secondary, but Gabbert hasn’t been an easy target of late.

Gabbert has been sacked only twice on the last two games, but one of those games was an abbreviated appearance. In a loss at Oakland two weeks ago, Gabbert went out after completing eight of 12 passes for 110 yards and a TD. He had not been sacked.

Chad Henne, who played at Michigan and was originally a second-round draft mistake by Miami, took over and had a tough game. He had three picks and three sacks.

Gabbert went the distance in last week’s loss at Green Bay and played reasonably well – 27 of 49 with a TD and no picks.