Calvin Johnson didn't waste much time providing a few highlight reel-worthy moments in the first two days of training camp.
The third-year receiver has made divine -- err, diving catches, acrobatic sideline receptions, leaving virtually nothing to the imagination with regard to his athletic ability.
Essentially, he's been what everyone on the Lions coaching staff expected he would be: a completely dominant wide receiver. Maybe the most talented in the league, and certainly one that will provide migraines to opposing defenders.
|Rookie safety Louis Delmas is ready to leave a mark -- on Detroit, and on defenders. (AP Photo)|
But during one particular moment on Sunday, he became the one posterized.
Reaching for a pass during one of the team's light scrimmages, rookie Louis "Da Missile" Delmas (a self-imposed nickname, at least via his Twitter page) slammed the ball out of Johnson's grasp and into the turf.
It's a rarity when any defensive back can beat Johnson's massive hands to the football, but Delmas' play spoke volumes about two things: his abilities as a player, and the importance of his contribution to a defense that redefined every aspect of the term 'pathetic' one year ago.
A second-round draft choice, Delmas has shrugged off the air of greatness applied to Johnson, and just about anyone else with God-like credentials. For example, he once boasted that he would intercept rookie Matthew Stafford.
During that the last day of rookie mini-camp a few months back, he did just that.
"The guy has decent ball skills," explained Johnson. "I was able to see that back in OTA’s. The dude can make plays out there."
Delmas, who is penciled in to start at safety in Detroit's defensive backfield (despite assurances from head coach Jim Schwartz that there is no depth chart), has become a part of a renewed defensive attitude. Considering the Lions posted the worst defense in the league last year (and a secondary that made virtually every opposing quarterback seem Canton-worthy), his presence was accepted gladly when drafted last April.
Thus far, the hype that Delmas has managed to build for himself has been legitimate.
"I am excited about Delmas; he is a good young player and I’m excited about seeing him play this season," said Johnson following practice. "I had a chance to spend some time with him at Ernie’s [Sims] Foundation this offseason and got to know him a little better."
MORE TRAINING CAMP NOTES
Matthew Stafford is gaining fans left and right, but one in particular might weigh more heavily than others.
"Man it really seems like the kid just came in here and he knew what he was doing right off the bat," said Calvin Johnson on Sunday. "I was real impressed when he came in because nothing is phasing him.
"He is the first pick and he has a lot of pressure on him, but like I said he’s handled everything real well with a level head, he’s just a good guy."
Speaking of Depth Chart ...
Schwartz is sticking to his guns on his unwillingness to draft a depth chart. Although certain players are practicing with the first, second, and third-teams, the first-year coach is quick to point out that -- especially minus pads -- it's still too early to determine anything.
And even if he has an idea, he won't be sharing it just yet.
"We haven’t even had pads on yet; we haven’t even played a preseason game," he cautioned. "There are areas that I am probably a little bit more secure on than others but I will just sort of keep those to myself until we have some pads on and until we get through some preseason games."
Tweeners Versus Thumpers
Even before Schwartz was hired, the Lions front office stressed the need to get bigger and stronger, a direct contradicting philosophy to the team built by Rod Marinelli's staff. Schwartz has asked players to put on weight, and shaped the roster during the off-season to reflect the organization's demands.
He explained the process on Sunday.
"The (old) philosophy was small and quick on the defensive line and they took on a lot of blocks with their shoulders," said Schwartz. "The expression doesn’t really put it in layman’s terms, but they got skinny in the hole. They were penetrators trying to get skinny in the hole.
"Our philosophy rather than quick and small is big and powerful. We are going to attack block more with hats and hands; you are going to see guys extending their hands and trying to attack block and control block a little bit more and try and knock guys back rather than just getting penetration and trying to knock an offensive lineman back."