Detroit Lions turn to the 1 non-former NFL player on offensive staff for help

Dan Campbell turned heads when he put together a staff made up mostly of ex-NFL players, but it has been a career coach who had no initial plans of getting into the business who has helped jumpstart the team’s passing game.

Tight ends coach Ben Johnson has taken on increased responsibilities as a pseudo pass game coordinator the past five weeks.

Johnson described his role Friday as being “maybe a little bit more hands-on with a couple different position groups” while still coaching tight ends. But everyone from Campbell to quarterback Jared Goff has credited him as a key figure in the collaborative process designed to get more out of the Detroit Lions’ languishing offense.

The Lions (1-10-1) are looking for their second straight win Sunday when they play the Denver Broncos (6-6) at Empower Field at Mile High.

“Ben’s been awesome,” Goff said Wednesday. “Ever since I got here, he’s been one the guys that you can kind of rely on as a good voice and understands kind of everything we’re trying to do. Since he’s been in that role, being able to lean on him and asking these questions and having him take some ownership over some stuff has been really cool. He’s a guy who’s got a lot of experience in the quarterback room and applying himself back in his time. But it’s been a lot of fun working with him.”

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Johnson was a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina who fashioned himself as “a math geek” before landing a graduate assistant position at Boston College under his former UNC offensive coordinator, Gary Tranquill, in 2009.

He spent three seasons with the Eagles, the last as tight ends coach, and the past decade as an NFL position coach with the Miami Dolphins and Lions, where he worked with quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends and learned a variety of systems that he says now form the basis for his schematic…


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