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Stafford: I think it will be tougher on defenses without Calvin Johnson

San Francisco 49ers v Detroit Lions

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions walks off the field after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 32-17 at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Calvin Johnson retired this offseason, leaving the Lions to get used to running an offense without their top receiver for most of the last decade.

They signed Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Caldwell and Andre Roberts as free agents to go with holdovers Golden Tate, T.J. Jones and Corey Fuller at wideout and they’ve been talking up the chances that tight end Eric Ebron breaks out in his third NFL season, which gives them a variety of options to consider as they build their passing game.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called Johnson a “once in a lifetime” player during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison, but had good things to say about the options still on hand. Stafford also said he thought it would be more difficult for defenses now that there’s no clear No. 1 target in the Lions passing game.
“I think we’re going to do it a little bit differently than we have in the past,” Stafford said. “Obviously we used to feature Calvin and everybody kinda got there’s after that. It’s gonna, I think, be tougher for defenses in a certain way that they don’t know who we’re going to. There’s no guy to key in on. We’re probably just going to spread the ball around a bunch, a bunch of guys are gonna get a ton of catches and we’re gonna be alright.”

A lack of predictability on offense would be a good thing for the Lions, but that’s going to take more than just more options for Stafford. For starters, they’ll need a more effective running game to truly have defenses guessing what’s going to happen after Stafford takes a snap this season.