Is Calvin Johnson's talent masking Matthew Stafford's?

Posted May 31, 2012

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was announced Wednesday as the No. 41 player on the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2012 as voted on by the players.

The piece put together by the NFL Network posed the question, "How does a guy who threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns rank this low on the list?

"Maybe because these are the plays people remember: where Stafford simply threw the ball up in the air and Calvin Johnson did the rest."

Is it really that simple? Does Johnson "make" Stafford into a quarterback who seems on the verge of elite status?

"There's sometimes, yeah, where it's just throwing the ball up," said Johnson, "but at the same time, there's times I'm running a route and it's not an easy pass to throw and he puts the ball in a good place where I can catch the ball and run.

"Therefore I can have a lot of yards after the catch."

Johnson finished last season with 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, but even without those statistics, Stafford finished the season completing 64-percent of his passes for over 3,300 yards and 25 touchdowns.

While Johnson continues to earn the reputation of the best receiver in the game today, overlooking Stafford's talent in and of itself would be misguided.

"As far as when I'm running a route, he puts the ball in the right place at the right time," said Johnson. It's an easy ball to catch - it's a tight spiral.

"But more importantly than that, he's that leader on the field. He takes control of the huddle. It's crazy - after the injury, it was just natural to him to be that leader - he just came right out of the box doing it.

"What it does, it gives you calm when you're in the huddle. You see your leader having it all under control out there."

Stafford has shown he has a rocket for an arm, can thread the needle and make throws the average quarterback can't make.

But his intangibles are just as important.

"He learns through Shaun (Hill)'s experience," said Johnson. "They spend a lot of time together in the film room and off the field and that bit of experience that he's getting from our veteran, Shaun, I believe has a lot to do with him getting (better)."

The 2011 season was the first in which Stafford and Johnson played all 16 games together and the chemistry they developed was obvious.

"It's before the snap where there are times you get a certain read and you can make an alert or cancel the play off," said Johnson of Stafford's leadership. It's not always for me, it's just whatever is best for the offense at the time.

"The thing is, though, he understands defenses very well, so he's able to make those adjustments."

Entering his sixth NFL season, Johnson has developed into a dominant player recognized by those in and out of the league.

Stafford has only completed one full season, so there is still a lot to be learned about the 24-year-old quarterback.

Regardless, Johnson will attest to the fact that he has an extremely talented quarterback under center.

"Who makes who better works both ways," he said. "He makes it easy on me - I do my job to make it easy on him."