Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Minus Johnson, Lions need more from WRs
By Michael Rothstein
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The production, clearly, was not what Detroit wanted out of its wide receivers.
Nine total catches. Less than 100 total yards. Sure, quarterback Matthew Stafford looked more toward his tight ends and running backs during the Lions’ 22-9 loss at Green Bay on Sunday, but the wide receivers missed many opportunities without their star, Calvin Johnson.
“We came in with the same mentality, week in, week out, it doesn’t really matter, but we need to go make some plays,” receiver Kris Durham said. “Because he’s obviously one of the best receivers in the game.
"There's more than just getting open," receiver Ryan Broyles said. "It's a timing thing"
“He definitely takes a lot of pressure off our offense, our running game, everything else, so we just have to step up and execute.”
In all, Detroit’s receivers saw 18 targets against Green Bay, four less than the running backs and tight ends. Durham saw the most of any Lion with eight, but only caught three passes for 30 yards and a late touchdown.
Patrick Edwards was targeted five times, but only caught two passes -- each for 8 yards. Kevin Ogletree saw three targets, catching two for 20 yards in his first game -- a game Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said the playbook was limited for him considering he had only been with the team for a few days.
Then there’s Ryan Broyles, who caught both passes thrown to him for 27 yards. But he only played in 40 percent of Detroit’s snaps, 27 of 67, and didn’t see a lot of overall action.
Broyles said he still rehabs every day, but it is more precautionary as he is trying to “attack the small little muscles you don’t usually work on” in an effort to maintain strength in his knees.
He said he feels good and, much like he said before his season debut, that he feels “capable of going out there and making plays.”
He has only played in three games, but Broyles hasn’t dropped a pass this season. The question is if Broyles -- and the rest of the receivers not named Johnson -- are getting open enough and able to create enough separation from opposing defensive backs.
“There’s more than just getting open,” Broyles said. “It’s a timing thing. It’s where the ball is going, that type of deal.”
Missing Johnson -- and his availability for Sunday against Cleveland won’t be known until later this week -- can throw off all of that. It changes how a team can scheme for the Lions. As it was, Green Bay did not double cover Detroit’s receivers, something that likely would have happened with Johnson in the game.
It also means even more precision is needed out of Stafford.
“It’s my job to try and throw the ball as accurately as I possibly can and on time,” Stafford said. “And I’ll continue to do that, no matter who is out there.”
Detroit, obviously, would prefer if Johnson were the main recipient of a lot of Stafford’s throws, but he needs to be healthy to do that.
If he is, the Lions’ offense can return to normal, at least with their full complement of receivers. With Johnson over the first four games, Stafford was completing 64.1 percent of his passes (100 of 156), had only been sacked three times and was getting rid of the ball faster than any regular starting quarterback in the league.
Without Johnson, against Green Bay, he didn’t and Detroit suffered. Stafford, though, has faith in his receivers -- Johnson or no Johnson. And Cleveland will look different than Green Bay and the Packers look different than Chicago and so forth and so on.
“We’re playing a different scheme,” Stafford said. “A different player. Every week is a different challenge.
“That’s what makes those guys so good, that they can adapt and make plays seeing all kinds of different looks every week.”