Eagles gearing up to stop Calvin Johnson
If last week’s encounter with the Arizona Cardinals and Pro Bowl
wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was a test for the Philadelphia
Eagles secondary; Sunday’s match-up with the Detroit Lions and
Calvin Johnson is a final exam.
With cornerback Cary Williams in coverage and with help over the
top from safety Nate Allen, the Eagles contained Fitzgerald in a
24-21 victory. The Cards star receiver caught five passes for 72
yards and a touchdown, but was from dominant.
This week it’s Johnson.
Asked if anyone was similar to Johnson, Eagles coach Chip Kelly
quipped; ”In this world? No.
”I mean you look at the Cowboys game, you would think when you
have a guy triple covered, they’re not going to throw the ball to
him,” Kelly continued. ”(Matthew) Stafford throws it to him and
he goes up and catches it.
”The combination of his size and speed and explosiveness, I
don’t think there is anybody like that in this league. He can just
go get the football. I think sometimes when you’re playing people,
you can say, `Hey, if we double this guy with our play call, we got
two good guys who can double him.’ You’re in good shape. They’re
still going to throw it up and a lot of times he goes and gets it.
That’s what makes it really difficult with him.”
Johnson comes into Sunday’s game first in the league in yards
receiving with 1,299, tied for first in touchdowns with 12 and
fifth in receptions with 72.
Philadelphia’s pass defense ranks 32nd, or last, in the league,
allowing an average of 298.6 yards per game. This could be a tough
”Every week is another challenge,” Allen said after practice
in the Eagles locker room. ”Last week was Fitz, this week it’s
Calvin. It doesn’t get any easier. We’re just going to have to be
up for it. I think we did a good job last week and we’re going to
have to do a better job this week.”
What might benefit the Eagles is a pass rush that can get to
Stafford and make it a little easier for the secondary trying to
contain Johnson in coverage.
”Sure, that would be great,” Allen said. ”If we can get some
pressure and make it difficult on Stafford that changes everything.
But we’ll mix up things a little bit. We’re going to try to keep
him in front of us all the time. And then maybe most importantly
when he does catch the ball, we have to tackle him.”
Again it’s easier said than done. At 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, he’s
got four inches and 46 pounds on Williams, who is considered a big
cornerback; and four inches and 26 pounds on Allen.
”There are a lot different things you can do,” Eagles
defensive coordinator Bill Davis said of guarding Johnson. ”But at
the end of the day, 6-5 is 6-5. You can’t always jump up and be at
the higher position that they are, but you can do little things
like rip their arms out, get their arms down and get the ball where
it’s not a two-hand catch. Make it have to be a one-hand catch.
”So there are little things that you can do being on them,
pressing from the line of scrimmage, playing aggressively, not
letting the timing and rhythm happen quite like they want it to
happen. You have to disrupt the rhythm of the offense and the
timing of the offense in order to stop the talented receivers and
Even Davis admitted, however, that Johnson is different.
”There are similar players who are big bodied, go up and get
the ball. They snatch it out of the air,” the coordinator said.
”Fitzgerald is one of the top in the NFL. But Calvin is the best
when you watch him game in and game out. What he does and what he
can do at that size, speed ratio. He’s the best.”
NOTES: Rookie safety Earl Wolff (knee) and linebacker Najee
Goode (hamstring) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.