Calvin Johnson re-catches optimism for Lions' prospects
Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News
Allen Park -- Lions receiver Calvin Johnson hasn't been a part of a lot of good times since being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2007 NFL draft. In three seasons with the Lions, Johnson has been a part of nine total wins and has no Pro Bowl appearances, despite immense talent that combines a 6-foot-5, 236-pound frame with game-breaking speed.
Plagued by injuries for most of last season, Johnson had 347 fewer yards (984) and seven fewer touchdowns (5) than his breakout second-season of 2008 -- 78 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The losing, the injuries and the constant double and triple coverages he dealt with last year started to wear on Johnson by season's end and he spoke outwardly of his frustrations.
But as he reminded a group of reporters huddled around his locker after an organized team activity practice last week, 2010 is a brand new year.
"We have a bunch of bigger guys. We have a lot more speed. We have a lot more skilled players out there," Johnson said.
"They brought in Nate (Burleson). We have Bryant (Johnson) from last year. We brought in Tony Scheffler. We got a good running back in the draft. That's why I'm very excited to get going. I'm ready to go right now."
That's a 180-degree difference from where Johnson was both physically and mentally by the end of last season.
The Lions had a very successful offseason and draft by most accounts and it seems a bit of rest and a renewed sense of optimism has Johnson raring to put up a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2010.
"You have to believe in what your coach is talking about. Everybody has to believe in what he's doing as players," Johnson said of the plan coach Jim Schwartz has for his second season at the helm.
"If you don't, there's going to be tension in the locker room and there's going to be tension between you and the coaches, and he can't have that. ... I and the other guys believe in what he's doing."
The acquisitions of Burleson at receiver and Scheffler at tight end, along with the drafting of running back Jahvid Best, should take some of the pressure off Johnson, and the hope is they will force defenses to employ fewer double and triple teams.
Johnson saw single coverage only a handful of times last season, but when he did, he was unstoppable. The Bears tried covering him with a single defender in their Week 3 matchup in Chicago. Johnson had five catches for 119 yards in the first half, forcing the Bears to switch to Cover 2 in the second.
Johnson is confident the development of second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford will go a long way to him having a bounce-back season, also.
"His confidence has grown a ton," Johnson said. "He got out there. He has that game experience. He's seen some highs and he's seen some lows. I think he'll be able to come out here this year and give us a good show.
"Everybody else is excited about the season because of all the weapons they brought in. It's a big difference in the size we've had here in the past. Everyone has a lot of optimism."
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100512/SPO ... z0njWfxP41