FOXBORO, Mass. — Sometimes it sounds like opposing teams are speaking in hyperbole about Calvin Johnson, but the Decepticons-nicknamed Detroit Lions wideout really is one of the rarest talents to ever enter the NFL.
Johnson is having a slightly down season after missing three games with an ankle injury, but a disappointing season for the 6-foot-5, 236-point receiver still results in 34 receptions for 520 yards and three touchdowns through seven games. The New England Patriots certainly are taking Johnson seriously as they enter Sunday’s matchup against the Lions.
“He’s Megatron,” New England Patriots cornerback Revis said Wednesday chuckling. “That’s what makes him different. He’s a man among boys out there. You see it all the time. He’s 6-6, 230 pounds, and he runs a 4.3. That’s pretty freakish to have. It’s like the ultimate receiver that you want, so — if you can create him on a video game, that’s basically what he is.”
Man among boys, freak-athlete, created out of a video game — yup, Revis hit on all the cliches used to describe Johnson. Oh, and here’s one more:
“He’s like an NBA player,” Revis said.
If Patriots head coach Bill Belichick decides to let Revis follow Johnson, the Patriots cornerback likely won’t be alone. It takes more than one man to cover Megatron, which has allowed fellow Lions receiver Golden Tate to break out for a 68-catch, 950-yard season.
Revis has played Johnson twice in the past — once in 2010 with the New York Jets and last season as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Revis has allowed five catches on eight targets for 57 yards to Johnson, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Patriots could elect to let Revis cover Tate alone, and have Brandon Browner, who matches Johnson’s size better at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, combine with a safety to take on Johnson.
Browner played the Lions in 2012 while with the Seahawks and allowed two catches on three targets for 40 yards. It’s always tough to predict matchups with the Patriots, however, since they have such a diverse group of defensive backs. Revis was expected to cover Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton on Sunday, but he instead followed Reggie Wayne, and Kyle Arrington faced off against Hilton. The Patriots also always mix man and zone coverages and throw in new wrinkles every week.
There’s no perfect way to cover Johnson, but Belichick typically is adept at taking out a team’s best weapon. Revis acknowledged that Johnson can even beat double- and triple-coverage.
“You see on film all the time, two or three defenders around him and Stafford will still throw the ball up, and he comes down with it sometimes,” Revis said. “We’re well aware of that, we’ll just have to keep on game-planning.”
Here’s one such example from 2013, when Johnson, lined up at the top of the screen, goes up and over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Jeff Heath for a 54-yard catch over the middle of the field.
Johnson deserves all of the praise he receives, but that doesn’t mean he dominates every game he plays, as proven by his performances against Revis. Johnson was covered by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson last week, and he only caught five passes on 12 targets for 59 yards.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
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