Calvin Johnson Forgotten in Detroit Lions Game Plan, Maybe It's Time for a Trade

Blue in GreerCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2010

BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 13:  Tom Zbikowski #28 of the Baltimore Ravens defends against the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Lions 48-3. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Just by finishing the process on the one play Calvin Johnson could have changed this whole conversation.

Everything changes when a team is 1 and 1 with a big comeback win over a hated division rival and fans would have scoffed at the thought of trading the big play maker.

All off season we heard how the new additions would help get Johnson open and they had fans dreaming of big plays raining from the sky. Megatron might be the most gifted WR in the game and everything the Lions said pointed to OC Scott Linehan taking full advantage of that talent. After all, didn't Linehan turn Randy Moss into a legend?

But he didn't finish the play and the Lions are 0 for the season so fans are looking for answers and Calvin's eight receptions for 95 yards and one TD in two games hardly seems like what the Lions expected out of their number one weapon.

Looking at the team stats we can understand only 8 receptions but that 11.9 yards per catch average with his longest play being for 19 yards stands out. Consider this, the big TE Brandon Pettigrew leads this team with 14.3 yards per catch and his long of 35 yards is nearly twice as long as anything Calvin has done.

Have you guys seen Pettigrew run this year? Pettigrew leading all Lion receivers in yards per catch should be like Ndamukong Suh leading the defense in interceptions.

So who do we blame for this?

Three possibilities come to mind quickly and for answers I went to the tape and after reviewing every offensive play I might have some answers.

Scott Linehan

I already went there after the first game and after another review of the Chicago game I did soften my stance a little. The Lions did target Calvin with ten passes but only once in the first half. This was a function of a multitude of reasons and Linehan only gets a supporting role.

The most obvious issue was field position with two of the five first half drives starting inside the Lion 10 yard line the Lions chose to stay conservative.

The two times the Lions had good field position they drove for touchdowns but Calvin was a target only one time on a pass that was just out of bounds in the end zone. Because the Bears chose to double cover Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford and the Lions took advantage of all those new weapons like Jahvid Best and Tony Scheffler.

Watching those plays it was usually Calvin drawing away coverage while another Lion receiver moving into the area the Bears just vacated. This is exactly why the Lions picked up those new weapons and we can't fault Linehan and Stafford for utilizing them and considering they had a 14-3 lead with a 1:30 left in the half it's hard to disagree with the plan.

Maybe the biggest complaint many of us had was where was Calvin Johnson when the Lions needed him to help out Shaun Hill?

The answer to that is he was right where they wanted him to be. Remember they threw to him nine times in the second half and that was out of 28 total offensive snaps. Granted four of those passes were in the 7 to 10 yard range and three of them were end zone shots at the end of the game. The one time they tried to go deep with him other than the last drive Calvin Johnson was tripped up and the Bears intercepted.

This action carried over into the second game when the Lions targeted Calvin with 12 passes during the game. The intent was there but the execution was bad.

That leads to the quarterback situation.

There is no doubt that the Stafford injury has affected the game plan and Shaun Hill's arm strength has hurt Calvin more than anybody. A big part of the Lions' game plan was not only deep balls to Megatron but those 25 yard frozen ropes to the sidelines. This is one of the weak areas of cover two if the pass can get there quick enough but Stafford is one of the very few quarterbacks who can pull that off.

With Shaun Hill at quarterback the Eagles defense was able to stay up on Calvin more because they knew they could recover fast enough on the deep pass. Hill's long passes float too much and on the couple of times the Lions tried to hit deep passes there were a handful of defenders waiting for it to come down.

With the DBs playing close and the longer passes out of the question that left the quick slants and the Lions attempted five of these and completed two of them as Hill misfired on the other three.

The other two receptions were in the 10 to 20 yard range off four attempts while they had no success with the three deep passes they attempted.

But what about Calvin himself; a big time player has to make plays to help his back-up QB right?

Well after watching the tape I can say he has been open a lot. Despite double and triple coverage he has always created the separation and other than the one drop he had in the Chicago game if the pass was near him he caught the ball, okay two drops if we count the reception the rule book took away.

From what I have seen Megatron is doing everything we could ever want from getting open to catching the ball and don't overlook his blocking. A lot of those Jahvid Best yards were helped by Calvin sealing an edge or downfield blocking.

One more thing to consider is how shocked would you be if it was Calvin Johnson who was arrested for DUI this morning? Of all the WRs out there Calvin might be the most solid citizen and respected teammate of them all. Never a question of his work ethic or do we hear a discouraging word from him. He is exactly the type of player any team wants and I am sure the Lions feel very lucky to have him.

The plan looks sound, teams are left choosing their poison out there and Calvin is the cornerstone that makes it all work. When Stafford gets healthy there is every reason to believe that Calvin Johnson will be one of the most feared players in the game.

Before we start saying we should trade him consider how hard it is to find that combination of incredible skill and class that he possesses. It looks like the Lions have found a couple of playmakers in Best and Pettigrew but don't forget how different those players would look if the safeties weren't worried about Calvin.

After the Lions have spent the last decade looking for even a decent second receiver there is no way the Lions would consider trading a true threat nor should they.


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