Stafford: I think it will be tougher on defenses without Calvin Johnson

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Calvin Johnson retired this offseason, leaving the Lions to get used to running an offense without their top receiver for most of the last decade.

They signed Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Caldwell and Andre Roberts as free agents to go with holdovers Golden Tate, T.J. Jones and Corey Fuller at wideout and they’ve been talking up the chances that tight end Eric Ebron breaks out in his third NFL season, which gives them a variety of options to consider as they build their passing game.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called Johnson a “once in a lifetime” player during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison, but had good things to say about the options still on hand. Stafford also said he thought it would be more difficult for defenses now that there’s no clear No. 1 target in the Lions passing game.

“I think we’re going to do it a little bit differently than we have in the past,” Stafford said. “Obviously we used to feature Calvin and everybody kinda got there’s after that. It’s gonna, I think, be tougher for defenses in a certain way that they don’t know who we’re going to. There’s no guy to key in on. We’re probably just going to spread the ball around a bunch, a bunch of guys are gonna get a ton of catches and we’re gonna be alright.”

A lack of predictability on offense would be a good thing for the Lions, but that’s going to take more than just more options for Stafford. For starters, they’ll need a more effective running game to truly have defenses guessing what’s going to happen after Stafford takes a snap this season.

60 responses to “Stafford: I think it will be tougher on defenses without Calvin Johnson

  1. Ebron won’t break out. I have seen enough. Who replaces Cal Johnsons numbers and difficult catches?

  2. As crazy as it sounds Staffird could be right. The packers offense with favre at quarterback really took off in 1995, the year after Sterling Sharpe was forced into early retirement. I am not arguing that Sharpe was as elite as Megatron, but from 1992-1994, Sharpe was at least as big a part of the packers offense as Megatron was for Detroit the last few years.

  3. thats a silly statement.. just because CJ was on the field did not mean you had to target him, but if every one is covered you throw it up in his area he would go up and get it.

    All other things equal you dont lose one of the best (if not the best) receiver of a generation and get better

  4. Yeah, about that “clear number one target” being gone, Golden Tate had 90 receptions last year and Calvin Johnson had 88 receptions. In 2014, Tate had 99 receptions to Johnson’s 71 receptions (although Johnson was hurt for 3 games).

    Hmm…

  5. Totally makes sense. Of course – now that the Lions are not burdened with having one of the greatest receivers in the game, their offense will suddenly become all that it could be. Yes, Calvin Johnson was really holding them back.

  6. Matthew Stafford ’09-’15:

    1st Down: Sidearm worm burner with clean pocket to TE in the flat; Incomplete.
    2nd Down: 6 yard Overthrow to C. Johnson ; Incomplete.
    3rd Down: 37 yard pass completion to C. Johnson into Deep Cover 2; 1st down.

    Matthew Stafford ’16-Beyond: ????

  7. As crazy as it sounds Staffird could be right. The packers offense with favre at quarterback really took off in 1995, the year after Sterling Sharpe was forced into early retirement. I am not arguing that Sharpe was as elite as Megatron, but from 1992-1994, Sharpe was at least as big a part of the packers offense as Megatron was for Detroit the last few years.

    Sterling Sharpe would have been a Hall of Famer if allowed to continue. Dont forget they had Freeman and Brookes to replace him but its all about the qb really. Great qb’s will thrive with decent wr’s better than great wr’s thrive with decent qb.
    Brady throws for a million yards and many years hes had a guy like edelman as his number 1. good player but not more than a 2/maybe 3 on other teams.

  8. I actually agree with Stafford, and it’s not because Calvin wasn’t dominant, but more because Stafford used to lock onto him at times. In the last 2 years, when Calvin hasn’t been in the lineup, Stafford has been much better at spreading it around.

  9. What did you expect him to say? “We’re done now that Megatron is gone?” That being said, his comments basically translate into him saying they were forcing the ball too much to Johnson and defenses were benefiting from that. I doubt that was his intent, but that’s what this is saying.

  10. That reasoning makes no sense to me. Most defenses had to double or triple cover Calvin and now these players are free to cover the rest of the players. Without a go to guy, you are in trouble Mathew.

  11. Yeah, last year’s Packers were so much better without #1 WR Jordy Nelson. Oops……well….maybe not.

  12. That’s the frustration… they probably will.

    We’ve been clamoring for two years to do the SAME THING… and save Megatron’s body, keeping him around longer.

    For sure, it will be much harder on STAFFORD as he’ll actually need to accurately hit receivers now, instead of slinging it 10′ in the air for Johnson to go up and get.

  13. Being a lions fan, I’ve learned to be a glass 1/2 empty person. They’ll suck without CJ hauling in all those inaccurate Stafford passes. Book it.

  14. Barry Sanders then Calvin, my favorite players of all time. That being said, I’ve watched the Panthers and Patriots and Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl with little known receivers, I keep watching the Steelers reload with receivers from the 4th round and beyond……Stafford has a point, Calvins routes will be ran by 3 different guys now instead of following where big 81 is in the formation.
    #AllHailMegatron

    I still hope we’re 9-4 and someone gets hurt and he comes back out of retirement for a playoff run. Our schedule is weak, it could happen

  15. I’m not going to pour it on the Lions Fan because they know full well that Golden Tate’s bloated numbers were a result of CJ being the main concern of other Defenses. Plain and simple- the Defense got worse when Suh left (fact) and the Offense will get worse without Johnson (fact).

  16. If the defense is keying on one person, wouldn’t that make it easier to throw to someone else that they’re not keying on? I think Golden Tate actually showed that that makes sense. I don’t see Tate approaching the same numbers he put up the last two years now that he’s going to be covered.

  17. this makes me laugh, how many times would he just lock in on Calvin and lob it up when the pressure came. They dont even have a legit #2 on the roster. This is going to be a bad year for the Lions and Stafford is going to face an even bigger pass rush

  18. If you are being predictable by always throwing to CJ, then that’s your own failure and has nothing to do with CJ. Take that away from the argument and you’re left with whether or not the talent brought in is better than the talent lost. That’s a hard argument to win.

    But in some ways this forces Stafford to either improve his decision making or his numbers will suffer. So it changes how Stafford needs to play. If he spread the ball around more while CJ was playing, the Lions would have performed better.

  19. I am sure Stafford would have liked Megatron around for another season, so he’s just trying to make the best of the hand he is dealt. Having said that, what would help the passing game the most in Detroit is not a receiver, but a legitimate running back and running game.

  20. If Stafford thinks that spreading it around more will be tougher on defenses, it sounds more like a Stafford decision-making problem and less a Megatron problem. Its Stafford’s own fault he had tunnel vision for Calvin. He will probably fall back into that habit again with Tate.

  21. Golden Tate is a very good #2, but let’s see how his production drops facing the #1 CB and double-teams for 17 weeks.

  22. Well, you can laugh now. I can defend his stance now. We really have no idea until the clocks start ticking in the regular season.

    In a small sample size of games that Calvin was injured, Matt showed it really doesn’t slow him down as much as speculated. Again, new look offense so there is no winner in arguing it now.

  23. The Lions are cursed and they will suck even more than they normally suck without CJ…just like they did without Sanders.

    The Lion fans deserve more than that….

  24. “ncphinsfan says:
    Jun 21, 2016 11:33 AM

    I’m not going to pour it on the Lions Fan because they know full well that Golden Tate’s bloated numbers were a result of CJ being the main concern of other Defenses. Plain and simple- the Defense got worse when Suh left (fact) and the Offense will get worse without Johnson (fact).”

    Detroit’s D got worse when they loss their true MVP – Deandre Levy. He’ll be back this year. Thanks for sharing and caring.

    BTW, how great did Dolphoney D get with the great Suh? Oops! Oh yeah…

  25. Ok, Matthew Stafford? Explain to us how having one of the most prolific WR’s ever to play the game of Football; is now retired will make it harder for defenses to defend your offense without him? That’s like saying when Jerry Rice or Randy Moss left their respective teams the 49ers and Vikings thought “This is great, they’re gone and it’s now harder to defend us”. Interesting comment from one of the top ever Wonderlic testers….

  26. Stafford is delusional and will ‘never’ win a championship. He is basically saying that the Lions became a ‘better’ team when Calvin Johnson retired! Crazy.

  27. About the double team argument. We will have to see as the three games played without CJ, Tate went 7 for 44yds with 0 tds against Min. 10 for 154yds and 1td against NO. And 7 for 151 yds and 1td against ATL. Granted the second two are bad defenses but you play who your schedule is against.

  28. I think this guy is soo overrated… and I don’t think anyone would rank in him the top 20.

    Cutler is a better leader of men than Stafford

  29. What is it about teams like the Lions, Browns, etc. who just can not for the life of them get to playoffs and superbowls? I just don’t get it. Yet other teams are routinely in the post season.

    Someone isn’t doing something right somewhere. Boggles the mind.

  30. theashleyguy says:
    Jun 21, 2016 10:35 AM

    Yeah, about that “clear number one target” being gone, Golden Tate had 90 receptions last year and Calvin Johnson had 88 receptions. In 2014, Tate had 99 receptions to Johnson’s 71 receptions (although Johnson was hurt for 3 games).

    Hmm…
    ==============================
    Tate is very underrated and played very well when CJ was hurt last year.

  31. In the five games StafFORD played without Calvin in the lineup:

    He was 103-171-1,171 with 5 TDs and 2 INTs – (60.23% completion rate), 234.2 Yds per game, 1 TD per game and 0.4 INTs per game. Yards per attempt is 6.85 while his yards per completion is 11.37.

    It won’t be easy but it could be better.

  32. I wonder if Stafford ever realized one of the advantages of having Calvin is that defenses pay so much attention to him, there is bound to be someone else wide open… it’s no coincidence that Wes Welker started having huge stats when he teamed up with Randy Moss.

    I live in Michigan and the Lions are just depressing.

  33. So what’s your point? He may have played well the Lions obviously didn’t play well enough. Golden Tate is no Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford is no Tom Brady…..

  34. Nowhere does he say that the Lions will be better without CJ. He doesn’t even remotely imply that. Cue the geniuses who can’t read, chiming in with inanity and lowering the level of discourse. But that’s what you get when America ranks globally between Venezuela and Ghana in education

    All he is saying is that defenses have to do more preparation, without a clear-cut superstar to key on. They’ll have to watch more tape on the guys across the board, and in new context. Seems pretty simple to understand but it also seems pretty simple to understand that Donald Trump is a megalomaniacal turd who has no chance of winning and would be a disaster if he somehow did, yet there’s millions of Americans who can’t seem to figure that out either.

  35. The offense could be better this year because they drafted guys for the offensive line. Having Jim Bob Cooter’s offense for the whole year should make things better too.

    Last year CJ had 1200 yards receiving. He had 300 total yards in 2 games against Chicago so he had 900 yards total in the other 14 games. He wasn’t as big a factor last year as you would think.

  36. The Lions are in the worst shape in the division. They will have their work cut out for them, but they’re use to being at the bottom, they have like 1 playoff victory in the history of the team.

  37. so what you’re saying is you’ll be running for your life and the offense will stall more, with Calvin not being around to grab jump balls out of the air

  38. I think the way to properly answer his question is to look at the Lions’ offensive performance when Johnson was out with injuries compared to when he was playing. Then again, I have absolutely no desire or ambition to actually do the work to make that comparison, so never mind.

  39. flexx91 says:
    Jun 21, 2016 2:02 PM

    So what’s your point? He may have played well the Lions obviously didn’t play well enough. Golden Tate is no Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford is no Tom Brady…..
    ________________________

    So StafFORD doesn’t cheat? That explains it.

  40. Sterling Sharpe would have been a Hall of Famer if allowed to continue. Dont forget they had Freeman and Brookes to replace him but its all about the qb really. Great qb’s will thrive with decent wr’s better than great wr’s thrive with decent qb.
    Brady throws for a million yards and many years hes had a guy like edelman as his number 1. good player but not more than a 2/maybe 3 on other teams.
    ———————————-

    Robert Brooks I will give you but Freeman was a rookie who contributed nothing.

    What the Packers did in 1995 was throw the ball to their two headed RB tandem – Bennett and Levens – and Robert Brooks often. Well over half of Favre’s throws that year went to those three players.

    Packers also had a top 5 defense that season.

    Detroit is going to find out the hard way and Stafford is going to take a beating or revert to his old chuck it up and get intercepted self, or both.

  41. @ theashleyguy says:

    “Yeah, about that “clear number one target” being gone, Golden Tate had 90 receptions last year and Calvin Johnson had 88 receptions. In 2014, Tate had 99 receptions to Johnson’s 71 receptions (although Johnson was hurt for 3 games). Hmm…”

    Meanwhile, Johnson had 8 TD’s in 2014 – double that of Tate, and Johnson had 9 Td’s in 2015, 3 more than Tate.
    Both years Johnson still had over 1000 yards receiving, even though Tate had more catches.

    What counts is TD’s in this league. Johnson had more TD’s, and was a far bigger TD threat, especially when in the end zone. The dude was a flat out beast inside the 20 yard line.

    Of course Stafford is going to talk up who he now has as WR’s on the team, even if most are rag tag guys. It isn’t productive to downplay them, but we all know they won’t produce ANYWHERE near that of Megatron.

  42. Must have been terrible for Stafford to know exactly where 2 or 3 DBs would role coverage on every play. Poor guy finally gets that confusion out of his brain. Wow

  43. Shame the man for trying to talk up his team. Of course his team isn’t as good when they lose a guy who was locked in as one of the best at his position for years.

    He’s just a leader trying to make the best of a situation.

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