Calvin Johnson dives for a touchdown against the Packers on Thanksgiving. Credit: Getty Images
The mere mention of the name Calvin Johnson evokes images of NFL cornerbacks picking up their jock straps, and looking dazed and confused after being outraced on a deep route, or simply overmatched on a jump ball.
Johnson is the best wide receiver in football, so good that he usually comes out on top even when facing double and sometimes triple coverage. To some, the man they call Megatron may have touched down from another planet.
“In this world? No,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said, when asked if anybody was similar to Johnson. “The combination of his size and his speed and explosiveness, I don't think there's anybody like that in this league. He can just go get the football.”
There are plenty of recent examples of Johnson’s greatness. The list reads like a Hall of Fame speech. Kelly, without prompting, singled out his 14-catch, 329-yard performance against Dallas on Oct. 27.
“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. [Matthew Stafford] throws it to him and he goes up and catches it,” Kelly said. “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 has already racked up 1,299 receiving yards on 72 catches, with 12 touchdowns. His combination of size – 6-foot-5, 239 pounds – and speed – 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash – is what makes him the toughest cover in football right now, and maybe ever.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s a different challenge and may be, if he isn’t, the best wide receiver in the game,” said cornerback Cary Williams, who called the Cardinals “crybabies” earlier this week. “He’s more of a physical presence. He’s a glorified basketball player playing football.”