The amount of coverage opposing defenses commit to Calvin Johnson is a matter of pride for the Detroit Lions and their fans. The talented receiver hardly ever sees single coverage, and double coverage rarely slows him down. He makes life hard on the leagues best defensive back’s, and coordinators worry about their job security when he is next up on the schedule.
As if that worrying about Johnson wasn’t enough, the Lions are now adding wrinkles that will change the way defenses look at them this season.
As effective as Johnson has been, the Lions know they need more out of their offense to contend for a title in their division. Johnson is undoubtedly the greatest weapon on any field he steps on, but if Detroit could compliment him with other playmakers, the sky would be the limit for an offense that struggled to get into the end zone in 2012.
The first major step towards this goal was to add Reggie Bush via free agency. It was a move that had been rumored for weeks, but somehow it was difficult to grasp what a good match the two were until they had officially committed to each other.
Bush had made it clear he wanted to be the primary back on any team he went to, and his two years with the Miami Dolphins were the body of work he would use as his credentials. While neither season was quite as productive as Bush thought they would be, he did dispel many of the durability rumors that had haunted him throughout his career. Despite this, Bush will be sharing back the backfield in a scenario that has the potential to be something very special.
Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell both saw time as the primary running back for Detroit in 2012. Both made strong statements throughout the season and each brings something different to the table. The addition of Bush could actually help the team expose those strengths, rather than take away from them. Head coach Jim Schwartz has already made mention of potential plays that would see all three backs on the field at one time.
Using Bush in the passing game is a strength the Dolphins seemed to forget about, despite it being his primary function when he came into the league with the New Orleans Saints. The ability to have Bush line up as a receiver while Bell and Leshoure sit in the backfield would be priceless.
Wide receiver Nate Burleson had proven himself to be a reliable second option before he broke his leg last season and he will be back with something to prove. The Lions are also set to have Darrius Heyward-Bey work out for them, which would add another receiver with a chip on his shoulder.
Quarterback Mathew Stafford sees this as the off-season of his dreams. Defenses will be forced to pick their poison. They can spread the wealth and defend equally, which gives Johnson the advantage on every play, or they zone in on Johnson. Either way, the Lions win.
If this plays out on the field the way it does on paper, Detroit will have something serious to roar about when the season begins.