The rather large man in the photo above has good reason for smiling.
That would be defensive end George Johnson, who has been a camp revelation so far. And a big part of the reason why is that he's not nearly as large as he used to be.
Johnson has lost about 20 pounds from his playing weight during his tenures in Minnesota and Tampa Bay, where he was largely anonymous. His svelter physique allows him to play to his biggest asset, his quickness.
With Ansah still sidelined on the PUP, the young journeyman from Rutgers is getting first-team reps. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports, Johnson is impressing the right people. One of them is defensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, who said of his surprise talent:
He’s done a good job so far,” Washburn said. “We just got started, only had two or three practices, but he’s doing good. We like him. He was in the league for a while, and I think he’s played at like 285 and he’s played in a lot of read schemes. I think that what he does best is what we do, sort of lends himself to what we’re doing, so he’s doing a good job.
Johnson had some impressive reps in Saturday's practice session, too. From my notes at Detroit Lions Draft:
His first step for a guy his size is outstanding, and he knows how to use his hands already. On one rep he chucked aside a shoulder block from Brandon Pettigrew and exploded into the backfield for what would have been a tackle-for-loss. That was on the closed end. On the next set he wound up on the open end and embarrassed Riley Reiff with a shoulder dip move to get a QB pressure.
He faces a crowded field to make the Lions, but Johnson has started the climb impressively.