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Conference call: Johnson and Schwartz

Posted Dec 21, 2011

Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson and coach Jim Schwartz speak with the San Diego media ahead of Saturday's 1:05 p.m. PST kickoff at Ford Field.


Did you get a chance to see much of the Chargers game Sunday night?

No. We were traveling, but I got to see it on film.

What do you think?

It’s a good team so we’ve got to work.

Your offense has scored fewer than 20 points in every loss this season. Do you feel it’s on the offense for your team to succeed?

Yeah, we’ve got to score points. That’s the only way you’re going to win. Your defense can shut down the team and limit the points that they have but you’ve still got to be able to put up points on offense.

Do you know much about Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd? The biggest thing always noted about them is their size. It’s pretty hard to read a story about you without talking about your size. Can you relate to receivers like that? Do you know them very well?

I don’t know them. I don’t know them at all, actually. But you can’t help but see those guys, like you said. They’re other big receivers, and there’s not a ton of big guys that go out and make plays in this league. I definitely notice them.

Do you see the Chargers doing the same kind of things with them that the Lions do with you?

Not exactly. (But) I don’t get to watch a lot of their offense.

Do you have an advantage playing in a dome on an artificial surface?

Of course. That’s why it’s called home-field advantage. We’ve got a great crowd. They’ve been doing a good job for us this year. We’ve been putting up some wins, so they’ve been coming. We’ll just keep on doing that.

You guys got off to such a great start that you and the Bills were like the surprise darlings of the league. How were you guys able to hold it together when things started getting kind of rocky?

You win some, you lose some. It’s tough in this league. It’s very tough to get a win. You walk away with that. A lot of those games, if you don’t come out right, it’s tough to win a game. If everybody’s not on the same page it puts stress on other positions. The team’s not able to hold up and get the ‘W’ when everybody’s not all in. We kind of got it together the last few weeks. It was a tough stretch there, but we stayed together, we kept practicing hard and we got it back together.

How surprised are you that you guys are doing as well as you’ve done?

I’m not surprised at all. We’ve got a hard-working team. We’ve been working our butt off all year. I expect this. I expect to win.

Was there an overnight difference with Matthew Stafford or does it just seem that way?

He’s had some injuries, but as of this year he’s getting his experience up. The only way that I feel to be successful in this league – one, to know what you’re doing, but it comes with experience. And he’s getting there.

When did you feel you really made your connection with him?

Shoot, I really can’t put an exact moment on it. Nothing like that. It’s just over time.

Do you think the Lions haven’t gotten enough hype for your four come-from-behind victories compared with, say, the ones Denver and Tim Tebow have had?

I don’t know anything about that. One thing about me, I don’t pay too much attention to what the media says. I’ve got a job and I just keep my head down and focus on that. I don’t know about (Tim) Tebow. He’s doing a good job this year, but I’ve just got to worry about what we’re doing over here.

How many different ways have teams tried to deal with you?

Shoot, you see a variety of coverages every week. You never know what you’re going to see until game time. You see what most teams do on film, but that’s not always what we’re going to get. A lot of the time you’ve got to study up what they’re doing, what they like to do, but at the same time you have to wait and see what happens the first couple drives, too.

Can you delineate what they’ve tried and what hasn’t worked?

I can’t even go through everything because I’ve seen almost everything. I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve seen almost everything over the last few years. Whatever coverage you want to call it, they have all kinds of eccentric names for these coverages, but I’ve seen double, I’ve seen linemen come out and try to jam me at the line of scrimmage, I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff.

Can you put a number on how often teams double or triple you in a game?

I’m going to see it. I’m going to see it at some point during a game, usually. If I don’t – last game I really didn’t see it too much. We were able to have a big game, but usually we see it. I can’t put numbers on all those things because it just varies.

When was the last time you saw something that struck you as being a new and novel approach to you?

Like I said, when they put a lineman out there or a linebacker in front of me. That’s crazy.

Did that make life difficult for you for a brief time? I’m assuming you got over it.

Yeah, you’ve got to get past it, but you can’t let those guys grab you, that’s one thing about it.

How willing are you guys as an offense to throw into double or triple coverage?

It just depends on position. If Matt (Stafford) likes the look, he’ll put it up there. It just depends on how he feels about it.

What do you see in Quentin Jammer?

He’s a physical corner. He’s been that way – he’s been in the league for a minute, you know? I’ve played him only one time. It was like my rookie year. But he’s definitely one of those top guys because he does a good job getting his hands on guys.

How much more do you know now than you did that game?

A lot more, man. I wasn’t able to really read coverages on the run like I can now. I wasn’t able to diagnose them like I needed to so I could know what route to run and stuff like that, but I feel like now we’ve got a good hold on those things.

Even then, Quentin was a veteran. Did he use his experience on you?

Of course. That’s what he’s going to do. He should do that every game. I don’t see why it would change.

What have you seen in the development of Matt Stafford?

He can control the offense for the most part. He has a very good understanding for where the ball needs to go in certain coverages. Like I say, he’s just getting better with experience.

Are you doing a lot of different things that maybe a lot of other wide receivers aren’t doing simply because the Lions are trying to take advantage of your size and skills?

I get to move around at every position. A lot of guys play a lot of different positions in the league. I can’t take that away from anybody, but that’s one thing, I’ve got to be able to play different positions so I can get the ball sometimes, because you can’t just stay in one spot and let them double you.

Does that make things more interesting for you?

Yeah. You get to move around, run different kind of routes and stuff.

When you look at the Chargers’ secondary, they aren’t terribly tall guys. Is that an advantage for you?

It depends. You’ve got to have position on guys. You can’t just throw it up every time because they could have better position and hold you off from getting to the ball. There’s a lot of different things that go into it. You can just throw it up, but there’s things that go into it.


What are your overall impressions of what you saw from the Chargers the other night?

Obviously impressive. They showed the team that they can be, and that’s the team that started the season 4-1 and has won their last three. It’s not just been the game against the Ravens. They’ve won their last three. They’re averaging close to 36, 37 points a game and only giving up about 12 in that span. I don’t know if there’s another gap like that in the NFL between points scored and points allowed over the last three games.

Dealing with two big receivers like Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, is that what it’s like for opponents to have to deal with Calvin Johnson?

We faced Calvin every day in training camp. There are times that even when he’s covered he’s still open just because of his size. You get that basketball mismatch. And we have some other guys that are real tall receivers. Our tight ends all have great length to them and Maurice Stovall, one of our other wide receivers, this guy’s (6-foot-5). Particularly the size of the receivers and also with the tight end with San Diego, it gives you some matchup problems. They can put a junior college basketball team together with those guys.

Calvin said at one point teams were putting defensive linemen on him at the line. I neglected to ask him which team that was. Do you remember that game?

Yeah, we’ve seen a lot of different things. More like 3-4 linebacker type guys. But anything to be able to jam him early and then pick him up late. Calvin’s done a really good job over the last couple of years of rounding out his game. He’s always been a good deep threat. He’s become a good inside receiver working the shallow crossers and the zones, things like that, and also become a very good blocker. He sprung Nate Burleson for a couple touchdowns with his blocks this year. I think the big thing with Calvin, everybody’s game plan is going to be to try to limit him somehow, but he’s developed enough depth to his game that if they want to take away the deep stuff he can make them pay with underneath stuff. He’s a really good run after the catch guy because he’s so strong. And if teams want to take the underneath stuff away he can go deep on them. We also have other playmakers around him. Nate Burleson and Titus Young both made big plays for us this year. Both of them scored touchdowns in this last game. And Calvin had a lot to do with those guys scoring those touchdowns. And then our tight ends, Brandon Pettigrew and Scheff (Tony Scheffler), it opens it up for guys like that and our quarterback will go to them. So I think Calvin’s ability to get the ball and his development has also been dependent on that other talent around him.

It must be difficult to be him late in the game, though, when everybody knows the ball’s going to him. What kind of attention does he draw in the last minute of a close game?

Every game it’s a little bit different. Everybody has a little different idea. Basically there’s really no book on how to stop Calvin. If there was, people would’ve done it. I think he’s done a good job of expanding the talents that he has to make up for some of those things or to take advantage of some of those things. But when you’re a player like that, even if you’re covered you’re still open. It doesn’t matter if there’s two guys. There were a couple times this year – the play in overtime, the big chunk of yards, there were technically two guys on him. He caught a touchdown early this year against Dallas where he was between three guys, so he’s used to dealing with those kinds of things. He doesn’t have to be 1-on-1 for us to try to get him the football and he’s proven he can make those plays. He’s strong, he can run after the catch, he can also jump, he’s got great height, he’s got great hands, he’s a great guy. We’re really lucky to have him.

After the kind of start you guys got off to and all the attention you were getting, how easy would it have been when things got rocky for it to totally fall apart and how did you guys hold it together and get back on track?

This is the National Football League. There’s 16 games and nobody’s going to be able to just breeze through. We knew that. We had won a couple close games in the beginning. It wasn’t like we were blowing every team out 40-0 coming into it. I think that there’s going to be ups and downs over the course of the season. Our guys recognize that. We’ve got a pretty good group of veterans combined with some young players. We knew that there were going to be things you have to persevere through. There’s going to be injuries. There’s going to be other situations like that. And you look at the teams our losses have been to, it’s all been playoff contenders and people leading their division. We knew we had some tough games and I think that when it’s all said and done we’re probably a better team because we’ve been in those situations. We’ve played a very difficult schedule. We’ve had some things that we haven’t been able to accomplish on the field. Next time we do them maybe we’ll be better as a result of it.

With the speed that you have on offense and playing in a domed stadium, is this team at all modeled on the Greatest Show on Turf team in St. Louis?

No, not at all. We’re a completely different team. Our defensive line is built a lot different. Our offense is built a lot different. We do have firepower. We’ve got some very good skill players. We’ve got what we consider a very good quarterback. I don’t know if we have similarities. It’s a completely different scheme. We know that every game we play is not in a dome. We can go out to Oakland and get a win and we can go on the road and win down in Tampa when it’s 98 degrees in the opener. There’s a lot of different conditions that we’re going to have to play in and we feel like we’re able to adapt and play in all of them.

It seems like you’ve rekindled interest in the Lions in Detroit. Can you describe what the community is like and the buzz that you’ve created there?

There’s a great fan base and it’s a starved fan base. I don’t think that we’ve rekindled anything. That spark was always there and the fans never went away. Maybe went dormant for a little while but never went away. We saw a Monday night game earlier this year that had been about a decade in the makings and saw how excited our fans were for that. Now playing meaningful home games in December that have a lot on the line for not only our team but for the San Diego Chargers. That’s something that our fans have been waiting for, for a long time. They’ve been resilient. They’ve lived through a lot of different things. But they’re a little bit like us as a team. We’ll be better for it. Maybe we’ll appreciate the good times for some of the hard times that we’ve lived through here.

A lot of teams seem to adopt the identity of the town where they play. Do you think there’s a pretty strong association between the way you guys play football and just Detroit?

It is a tough city. There’s tough people here and I think that they’ve time and time again proven that tough times don’t last but tough people do and our team definitely takes a lot of inspiration in that. We feel a strong sense of responsibility also. This is a great sports town. The Red Wings have delivered championships. The Pistons have delivered championships. The Tigers are back on track. I think that the Lions need to be able to give this city the same thing that those other teams have given them.

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