By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – This week should be a slightly less stressful one for Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who will get to include both wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush in the game plan for Sunday.READ MORE: Michigan High Schools Selling 'Oxford Strong' T-Shirts To Help Community
Both Johnson and Bush missed several games in the first half of the season, but in this weekend’s game against the Miami Dolphins, Detroit could finally set off some offensive fireworks.
While Golden Tate filled in for Johnson better than anyone likely anticipated, Johnson’s return in particular should open up a slew of options for the Lions offense.
“He just has a unique skill set,” Lombardi said. “Certain plays become a lot better because Calvin Johnson is out there, and there are maybe some plays that you wouldn’t run because there’s no one else like him in the world. There’s certain things you do with him that you wouldn’t bother doing with mere mortals.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw to Johnson at least 10 times in each of the first three games but switched his focus to Tate when Johnson suffered an ankle injury. Johnson’s return undoubtedly means a reduction in targets for Tate and fellow wide receiver Corey Fuller, who like Tate has made some crucial catches this year.
“They’ll still all have roles,” Lombardi said, “but there’s only 60 to 70 plays in a game, and obviously [Johnson will] be getting his share of looks, [so] maybe less looks for other people.”READ MORE: Meijer Offering Free N95 Masks To Customers At Stores
Lombardi said Johnson’s return can benefit Detroit’s run game as well as its passing attack.
“Teams are going to be a little less willing to put an extra safety down in the box, so a lot of times it pulls a defender out of there that can immediately fill in on the run,” Lombardi said. “So yeah, you hope that helps the running game.”
Along with Tate and Fuller, another player who may be getting fewer opportunities is Bush. Fellow running back Theo Riddick has played well in Bush’s absence, racking up 75 receiving yards against the Minnesota Vikings and 74 receiving yards against the Atlanta Falcons. Lombardi said that both will play, but the emergence of Riddick inevitably means less work for Bush.
“Obviously, they both have certain skills that cross over that are a little redundant, and so in some ways they eat at each other’s reps,” Lombardi said, “but they’re both very good players, they’re both players that can do things extremely well, and so I think you use them both. You try to get them both on the field maybe at the same time. Neither of them are real big guys, and so you’re always saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to get this guy hit 20 times a game.’ But if you’ve got two of them, they both can get hit 10 times a game.”
The Lions might also get back tight end Joe Fauria, who has not played in a game since Sept. 21. Lombardi said the uncertainty of Fauria’s availability makes it somewhat tricky to decide how much to include him in the game plan.
“You want to have some things if he’s ready but not be dependent on him,” Lombardi said. “That’s the hard part is when you’re like, ‘All right, he’s going to do these 10 things, he’s a major part of our game plan,’ no one else can really fill that role, and then all of a sudden he’s gone in the first quarter. And now you’re like, ‘Uh-oh, we’ve got to come up with some plays here.’ So you just have to have some plays for him but not be dependent on him.”MORE NEWS: Wayne County Partnering With CDC To Hold COVID-19 Testing Site In Dearborn
The Lions and the Dolphins both enter Sunday’s game on three-game win streaks.