Lions’ new offensive weapons could have interesting effect on Megatron

The addition of Eric Ebron should create more of a pick-your-poison approach to defending the Lions, if all goes as planned..

Paul Sancya

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The new weapons in the Detroit Lions’ offense could have an interesting effect on star receiver Calvin Johnson.

Will his stats go up because opponents aren’t able to pay quite as much attention to him?

Or will they go down because the newcomers catch some of those balls that had to be forced to Johnson in the past?

"Shoot, we should get more wins," Johnson said Tuesday following the Lions’ second practice of training camp. "That’s really all that counts. If we get more wins, I’m happy either way."

The Lions’ offense came to a screeching halt in the two games that Johnson missed last year because of a knee injury, scoring nine points in a loss at Green Bay and 13 in another loss in a meaningless season finale at Minnesota.

The addition of free-agent receiver Golden Tate and hybrid tight end/receiver Eric Ebron, the team’s first-round draft pick, should create more of a pick-your-poison approach to defending the Lions, if all goes as planned.

"Golden’s going to get a lot of one-on-one coverage," Johnson said. "With all the weapons we have, those one-on-ones will go full circle and I might get some more myself."

Don’t hold your breath on that one, Megatron, but there might be a little more space.

"When Golden starts doing what he does, they can’t double both of us," Johnson added. "One of us is going to have the opportunity.

I don’t see a lot of the reps that I’m used to seeing.

Calvin Johnson

"Those guys (Tate and Ebron) are going to be big focal points in the offense. They’re going to make a lot of plays for us, a lot of skillful plays to get the ball down the field to increase our scoring chances. I’m going to be out there, I’m going to make big plays, but those guys are going to help out."

This camp under new coach Jim Caldwell has started out a little differently for Johnson than past seasons under Jim Schwartz.

Johnson, 28, entering his eighth year in the league, developed a reputation for being the hardest-working player on the practice field.

He wanted to take every rep. He wanted to catch everything.

Times are changing. Johnson is trying to be a little smarter in hopes of staying healthy for a full season.

"I’m older now," Johnson said. "I’m not diving for the balls anymore (in practice). Coach Caldwell has a big emphasis about us staying off the ground.

"I don’t see a lot of the reps that I’m used to seeing. They’ll come, but I’m used to being out there every play.

"I’m not playing every play in practice but they’re working me in. I’m out here trying to get my extra running in after (practice) so I can keep my wind up."

Asked how he feels about the new approach, Johnson said, "I’m fine with that. Whatever coach needs me to do I’m going to do it."

Caldwell said: "This is a difficult game to go out there with intent of just keeping someone healthy. But we monitor with every single player, not just Calvin, in terms of the workload and try to be smart about it."

How much Johnson’s role changes on game day in the new offense with coordinator Joe Lombardi remains to be seen, but the preparation has been a little different for him.

Johnson is mostly used to playing the two outside receiver spots, but he said he’s putting in a little more time at the inside position, too.

"It’s cool," Johnson said. "Coach told me to be ready to play every (receiver) position. I’m trying to learn everything."


— Kickers Nate Freese (wide left) and Giorgio Tavecchio (short) both missed field-goal attempts from nearly 50 yards at the end of practice.

Freese, a seventh-round draft pick from Boston College, and Tavechhio, who didn’t get drafted two years ago coming out of the University of California, are in a competition for the No. 1 job to replace David Akers.

— Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a second-round pick, returned to practice after suffering a thumb injury on Monday.

— The Lions will move down to Wayne State in Detroit for a practice Wednesday night.

— The first practice in full pads is scheduled for Friday.