Detroit Lions Receivers Doing Just Fine Without Calvin Johnson

Detroit Lions. Photograph: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions. Photograph: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Lions fans were terrified when Calvin Johnson retired. But this year’s receivers are proving just fine without him.

The Detroit Lions had an offense built around the extraordinary talents of Calvin Johnson for years. Johnson was a perennial pro-bowler, and put up hall-of-fame worthy numbers throughout his career.

Like Barry Sanders before him, Johnson was too good to ignore – opposing defenses, coaches, and coordinators specifically game-planned to defend him on a weekly basis.

So Detroit Lions fans were right to be nervous about the daunting task of replacing him.

Free agency started and the team moved swiftly to sign Marvin Jones. Jones was productive in Cincinnati and coming into his prime. Still, he had never been a number one receiver, and certainly he couldn’t replace Calvin Johnson.

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Just before the preseason the Lions added to their group of receivers again signing Anquan Boldin. Boldin is a winner, a leader, and has had a standout career. But at 36-years old, he is in the twilight of his career. How much could he really be expected to contribute to the Detroit Lions offense?

Despite their offseason moves and their additions at wide receiver, Detroit Lions fans were still very nervous about the offense.

Halfway into this season, it appears there was nothing to worry about – at least not the wide receivers.

Marvin Jones might not have as awesome a nickname as Megatron, but his on-field production has unequivocally been that of a number one receiver.  Jones is on pace to match or exceeded Johnson’s 2015 season. If Jones continues as he has, he will out-perform Johnson (from 2015) in yards receiving and yards per catch, while posting similar numbers in receptions and touchdowns.

So Jones has filled the number one receiving position just fine. But what about the depth of the wide receiving position? It turns out Lions fans had nothing to worry about there either.

With Johnson gone, Stafford has had to distribute the ball more evenly this year.  It appears there is less throwing into double teams – not necessarily a big deal with Megatron around – and more throwing to the open receiver.

After a slow start to the year, Golden Tate has returned to being Golden Tate. He has settled into the number two receiver role and is on pace to post similar numbers this year compared to last season.

Additionally, Boldin has been a revelation as the number three receiver. He is on pace for over 60 receptions, close to 600 yards receiving, and eight touchdowns. While those numbers are nothing special when compared to Boldin’s career averages, they would obliterate the contributions the Lions received from last year’s number three (wide) receiver Lance Moore.

Throw in some added second half production from fourth receiver Andre Roberts and the Detroit Lions receivers look to be doing just fine. Even without Megatron.

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Detroit Lions fans should rest easy when thinking of the team’s receivers.  If we really want to lose some sleep, we should turn our attention to fixing the Lions’ atrocious defense.