By Ashley Scoby
@AshleyScoby

Calvin Johnson wants fresh blood, and he’ll finally get it this weekend, when the Lions kick off their regular season in San Diego against the Chargers.

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After weeks of going up against the same people in Honolulu blue, day in and day out, Johnson is ready to juke someone new.

“I’m really looking forward to going out there and going against somebody other than my own teammates,” he said. “They kind of get the edge on you at some point during camp, especially the defensive guys because you run a lot of the same plays against them. So it’ll be good to go against some fresh blood.”

San Diego’s two starting cornerbacks are 5-9 Brandon Flowers and 5-10 Jason Verrett. For a Detroit offense itching to prove that they can be more than just the sum of their parts, Sunday could be a recipe for success. It’s no secret that the Lions have one of the best one-two punches at receiver in the league, in Johnson and Golden Tate.

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“Speed, athleticism, intelligence,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of the Chargers’ corners, now charged with containing two of the best in the game. “They can run, they’re knowledgeable, they can anticipate cuts. … That’s a system that’s been in place for quite some time and these guys have been playing within it, so the structure of it is sound and it’s also a nuisance. It gives you all kinds of problems.”

The Lions had the same receiving duo last season, too, along with the same strong-armed Matthew Stafford, and same(ish) raw talent at running back. It’s how Detroit puts all of that together as a cohesive unit that wins consistently that’s sometimes been the problem.

But heading into the second season under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, players know the system better. Instead of thinking about where to line up or when to cut off their route, they can focus on just translating talent to steady production.

Detroit went 3-1 in the preseason and didn’t always move the ball at will. But Stafford rarely played, Johnson didn’t suit up and running back Joique Bell has been hurt since training camp. Having those pieces click into place right before real football begins this weekend could either show a bit of rust, or the benefits of resting.

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“Hopefully, those guys that got that rest during the preseason will be ready to go and flying around on Sunday,” Stafford said. “I’ve played enough football with Calvin Johnson and Joique Bell to understand what they’re all about and know what they bring on Sundays, so I’m looking forward to seeing them out there.”