Johnson, 30, retired earlier in the offseason, leaving a big hole in Detroit's passing game. Stafford will now have to focus on different aspects of opposing defenses, as he told Detroit's WJR earlier in May (via Tim Twentyman of the team's official website):
There were only a handful of teams I would really watch tape on last year. It was the Falcons with Julio Jones or the Cowboys with Dez Bryant. I wanted to watch defenses and see how they played against premier, top-flight receivers because we obviously had one.
Teams were scared of Calvin or those type guys, so they make adjustments that you really don’t see in games when they play guys and teams that don’t have that guy. ... With him being gone now, I’m sure the looks will be a little more standard.
Head coach Jim Caldwell told WJR opposing secondaries would throw highly unorthodox looks at Detroit because of Johnson, but Stafford will now likely deal with different schemes without such a dominant receiver for the defense to key on.
In nine seasons, Johnson racked up 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. He also set the NFL's single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964 in 2012.
He was also among the league's best run-blockers at his position a year ago, per Pro Football Focus:
Stafford will now look to receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones and tight end Eric Ebron to lead Detroit's aerial attack.
Tate led the team in receiving in 2014 with 1,331 yards, so he's proved he can be productive. Tate has also posted back-to-back seasons with at least 90 catches since joining the Lions in 2014.
The Lions chose Ebron 10th overall in the 2014 NFL draft, but he has accumulated only 785 receiving yards in two seasons. According to the Detroit News' Josh Katzenstein, he is prepared to help replace Johnson this season.
“We’re planning for everybody to unite as one to basically try to fill that hole or be better than what we were,” Ebron said. “What I did was I learned from him. And now it’s time to take what he taught me my last two years with him—and still now as he watches me—and just be great.”
There is no replicating what Johnson gave the Lions, but the team has the offensive weapons to still be a strong unit. Detroit will need to improve its defense, which finished 18th in total yards allowed last season, if it wants to compete with Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.