"I believe this is our best chance. I honestly believe that," said Johnson, who has played on only one Lions team that finished with a winning record and made the playoffs.
"You've got to buy in. You've got to buy into the coaches' philosophy and we have. I believe that everybody is doing what the coaches want them to do, and if we're not, if something is not like how he wants it, he's going to tell us and we're going to get better at it and he only has to tell us one time."
One of the reasons Johnson believes this is his best chance is the maturation of his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who is entering his sixth season in the league. The Lions also changed head coaches in the offseason, from Jim Schwartz to Jim Caldwell, and switched offensive philosophies, from a vertical style Scott Linehan preferred to a scheme similar to the New Orleans Saints' run by Joe Lombardi. The Lions also added a potentially more aggressive defensive scheme under Teryl Austin.
"I think we're a talented football team, but there's a long way to go. This is practice No. 2 for Week 1," Stafford said. "Obviously, we're a confident bunch. We're confident in our abilities and our schemes.
"We're confident in each other, but we have to go out there and execute. We have to get better week to week. We've got to get hot and go and see what happens. But on paper, we're as talented as anybody in the league, in my opinion."
So as Stafford and Johnson look around Detroit, they like what they see.
"We have guys, like I said, of the utmost and highest character on this team," Johnson said. "It's hard to go out there and settle for less when we come out here and work as hard."