|WR Calvin Johnson gives Lions a reason to be proud|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 September 2008 13:12|
The No. 2 pick in the NFL draft last year usually says just a few words when reporters ask him questions and rarely makes eye contact.
``I'm just quiet,'' Johnson insists. ``The media can twist words even when you don't say much, and I've been burned a couple of times. It happened in college and here.''
While being understated and standoffish comes naturally, it's also a calculated move by Johnson because he figures the media will leave him alone at times.
``You can put it like that,'' Johnson.
Clearly, Johnson would rather let his skills speak for him, and the next time they'll be on display will be Sunday in Detroit's home opener against the Green Bay Packers.
If he plays anything like he did in last week's loss at Atlanta, his game will have a lot to say.
en catches and broke a personal mark with 107 yards, 38 of which came on a short crossing pattern that left the Falcons in the dust.
``That play impressed me,'' teammate Roy Williams said. ``Two guys were coming at him and he pulled away. That's awesome. You can't coach that.
``It makes our wide receiver coach look good.''
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson agrees, saying he's working with a player who physically looks like a young Randy Moss - with a better attitude.
``That's exactly what he is, but I think he'll be better,'' Jefferson said. ``I'm not taking a jab at Randy Moss, but this guy wants to block and run dummy routes down the middle of the field if that helps the team. And, this kid has the mental makeup to be great, and this year he's taking a step toward that because he has worked so hard on his footwork.''
Johnson's rookie year was stunted after he hurt his back in Week 3, limiting him the rest of the year. He finished with a respectable 48 receptions, 756 yards and four touchdowns.
``It took me a whole offseason to truly get healthy,'' he said. ``Now, everything has slowed down for me.''
That's a scary thought for anyone trying to defend him.
``He's going to do things in this league that will make people say, `I haven't seen that before,''' Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna predicted.
The Packers like their young standout receiver, too.
Greg Jennings, a second-round pick in 2006 from Western Michigan, led the team with 12 touchdown receptions last year. He also had 920 yards receiving despite missing two games with an ankle injury, and resting with other banged-up starters in the regular-season finale against Detroit.
``I think he got everybody's attention last year,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Unlike Johnson, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Jennings doesn't dominate competition with his size and speed.
``One thing about playing receiver, it's not about the size of a guy, it's about the heart,'' Jennings said. ``It's about going up and getting the ball and making sure that either you get it, or nobody gets it.''
Jennings consistently finds a way to get open, rack up yards after the catch and make big plays such as the 56-yard, leaping reception that set up Green Bay's first TD in its win over the Vikings. Jennings finished with five receptions for 91 yards on the receiving end of passes from Aaron Rodgers in his starting debut.
``Greg Jennings is definitely an up-and-coming front-line player in this league,'' McCarthy said. ``I thought the performance that he had on Monday night was hopefully a start of a great season for him.''
Chances are, Jennings is going to follow with another strong performance in front of friends and family about 125 miles east of his hometown Kalamazoo.
He has eight catches for 161 yards and three scores in two games at Ford Field against the Lions. His mom handles the ticket requests for the homecoming game, and the total will fall somewhere between ``a whole bunch,'' and fewer than 100.
``It's ridiculous,'' Jennings said.
Some would use the same word to describe the Lions, who are an NFL-worst 31-82 since 2001 and have won only one playoff game since winning the NFL title in 1957.
But Jennings knows when the Lions are counted out, sometimes they put together a surprising performance.
``I've been watching them all my life,'' Jennings said, ``been rooting for them practically all my life, and they're a scary team because you don't know what team's going to show up.''