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Thursday, October 10, 2013
What Detroit might do if Johnson can't play

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- At least the Detroit Lions will legitimately have a week this time to prepare if Calvin Johnson is unable to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

The Lions said all the right things after Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, that they had contingency plans if Johnson could not play and they practiced without him. But Johnson was close to playing and against a divisional rival, on the road, a team would hope they would have their best player.

Ryan Broyles
Ryan Broyles has been making a case for more balls to be thrown his way all season, and he might get his chance Sunday.
Especially if the player really wants to be out there, too. That was maybe the most difficult part of last Sunday for Johnson -- the watching while his team struggled without him.

“Yeah, it sucks,” Johnson said. “Especially a division opponent, up there at Green Bay, like to play there. Just because of the history behind it, it’s a great environment to play in.

“It’s tough to sit out any game, but it’s for the better.”

This week, though, Detroit seems to have a contingency plan if Johnson cannot play.

One guy is new receiver Kevin Ogletree, a player picked up last week on waivers who impressed coaches in his short, very limited appearance against the Packers on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said the team gave Ogletree 10 things and that he “handled that well.”

The other potential contingency plan might also be one the Lions had all along. His name is Ryan Broyles and for the past few weeks he has wanted more snaps, more targets, basically more chances.

Yet he was on a different plan than what his coaches may have wanted for him.

“We hadn’t been planning on him playing really in the month of September,” Linehan said. “He’s done a nice job of stepping in and playing a little earlier than expected because of happened with Nate (Burleson).”

Linehan said the initial comeback plan for Broyles was similar to the one they had a season ago for him, when he didn’t see his real action until the sixth game of the season, and now the Lions are in Week 6.

In the preseason, Linehan said he saw Broyles was ready. It then became an issue of sticking with the plan or not. Yet Broyles’ snaps have fluctuated in games he has been active for this season. He played 17 snaps in his debut against Washington, 41 snaps in a win against Chicago and then just 27 snaps against Green Bay last Sunday.

For his part, Broyles said he is “100 percent to get on the field and play well,” and that he feels “capable of going out there and making plays.”

This week, whether or not Johnson plays, expect to see more of Broyles.

“I think he’s ready for a full load now,” Linehan said. “As far as just what you want to do as far as a plan for a guy, bringing a guy back from what he had to come back from a year ago.

“He’s right on track so we’re real happy he’s been able to get this time and progress. Certainly if somebody else isn’t available, his availability is going to be leaned on a little bit more.”

Even if Johnson plays, Broyles could see more action if tight end Tony Scheffler sits. Scheffler suffered his third concussion in four seasons on Sunday and has not practiced Wednesday or Thursday.

The Lions would potentially look to use more three wide receiver sets in that instance -- opening up more snaps for Broyles -- or inserting rookie tight end Joseph Fauria into Scheffler’s role.

No matter what, though, it would appear Detroit has a plan this week if Johnson can’t play. The Lions, obviously, would rather have Johnson healthy and ready.

“It certainly helps to have him out there,” Linehan said. “That’s the understatement of the day.”