When discussing his tenure with the Lions, Johnson spoke about the 2014 team then-coached by Jim Caldwell and how close he felt they were to a playoff win and even a Super Bowl ring.
“We had the pieces,” said Johnson. “A lot of those pieces left and won rings in other places the last handful of years. “We had pieces on that team when you think about it. [The] D-Line, the quarterback is having time to breathe, think about that quarterback, think about them receivers, think about them backs we had.”
The Lions had a pretty potent offense: Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, and Gold Tate. While Bush didn’t have his best year, Bell was a productive back, rushing for 860 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson and Tate both caught over 70 receptions and 1,000 yards apiece. Megatron chipped in 71 catches for 1,077 and eight touchdowns, while Tate added 99 catches for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.
Stafford, who now plays for the Rams, threw for 4,257 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The makings of a championship team were in place, according to Johnson. And in his mind, the defensive line played a big part in it. In 2014, the Lions had the third-ranked defense in the NFL. They had the top rushing defense in the league and were 13th against the pass. Additionally, the Lions had the third-ranked scoring defense as well.
“The talent that we were building to have all that time and then the team was kind of deconstructed,” said Johnson. “The D-line was gone, and that was really a big piece that allowed us to go on offense. They kept us on the field.”
The defensive line that Johnson spoke about consisted of Ndamukong Suh, C.J. Mosley, Jason Jones, and Ezekiel Ansah. It’s worth noting that Nick Fairley was also among this group. Heading into the 2014 season, he was the starting defensive tackle alongside Suh. However, he sustained an MCL injury during Week 8 vs. the Falcons, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Johnson also discussed watching former teammate Matthew Stafford in his LA Rams debut against the Chicago Bears, whom the Lions will play on Sunday.
“I saw Matthew was like ‘Is it really this easy?’ because it ain’t never been that easy in Detroit,” said Johnson.