Stafford: Lions' offense more of mixed bag minus Johnson

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Tight end Eric Ebron

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has said a few times this offseason that there could be some benefits to star wide receiver Calvin Johnson retiring.

“I expect that what I look at on tape will now actually be what I see on Sunday, which is quite different than it has been for the last seven years,” he said in April. “So, that’ll be a positive.”

And if things will be easier for the Lions offense, Stafford said in a SiriusXM radio interview that the inverse could also be true.

“It’s going to be, I think, tougher for defenses in a certain way that they don’t know who we’re going to,” Stafford said in the interview Tuesday morning.

"There’s no guy to key in on. We’re probably just going to spread the ball around a bunch, and a bunch of guys will get a ton of catches and we’ll be all right.”

Replacing a Hall of Fame talent like Johnson is never easy, but the Lions hope their myriad of weapons will help avoid any offensive setbacks. Wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones will likely have the most opportunities to thrive, but tight end Eric Ebron and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick will likely see more passes, too.

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“It’s different for sure,” Stafford said in the interview. “Calvin was a once-in-a-lifetime type player, a great talent, a great teammate. But at the same time, the guys that we have are pros. They’re good players. Golden’s had a great offseason. I’ve just got the chance to start working with Marvin and he’s a heck of a receiver. I’ve got to get as much time under my belt with him as I possibly can before the season starts which we’ll do and go from there.

“I think we’re going to do it a little bit differently than we have in the past. Obviously, we used to feature Calvin and everybody kind of got theirs after that.”

Johnson led the Lions in receiving yards in all but two of his nine seasons. As a rookie in 2007, he was third behind Shaun McDonald and Roy Williams, and in 2014, Tate led the team with a career-high 1,331 yards when Johnson dealt with an ankle injury most of the year.

In the interview, Stafford also discussed Ebron’s growth in his third offseason.

“I think he’s done a great job of just understanding what it means to be a pro,” Stafford said. “He was a really young kid when he came into the league a guy that has a ton of talent, but is starting to understand what it takes to be there on Sundays and make plays in this league. It doesn’t come easy. You have to work hard for it, and he’s done a great job this offseason.”

Jackson put on waivers

The Lions waived undrafted rookie offensive tackle Dominick Jackson on Tuesday.