Calvin Johnson trying to read defenses like a quarterback

Posted Aug 7, 2013

Johnson and QB Matthew Stafford are working so closely together this training camp to help Johnson better decipher how to beat unique coverages at the line of scrimmage

Calvin Johnson gets more exotic coverages than any other receiver in the NFL. It's a simple fact that teams implement more unique coverages against Megatron than any other player.

Calvin Johnson

It's why Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford are working so closely together this training camp to help Johnson better decipher how to beat it at the line of scrimmage. When Johnson comes back to the line of scrimmage after a play, Stafford is usually gesturing or is in his ear about the previous play.

"I probably talk to him more than he wants to listen to me," Stafford said.

It's not too much for Johnson, though. In fact, he welcomes it. The next progression for Johnson is to think like a quarterback and be able to beat defenses at the line of scrimmage before the ball is even snapped -- like a quarterback.

"I'm just trying to see things as he sees them," Johnson said. "When I'm running my route I'm trying to see spaces like he sees them so I can put myself in the right position."

Stafford says when the offense watches film together, he'll literally stand up and talk out loud to Calvin. It's a maturation that will be mutually beneficial to both players.

"He gets different coverages than anyone in the league and it's not just line up and play Cover 1 and here it is," Stafford said. "They are trying to find ways to stop him and obviously I have a good perspective from where I stand. I can see it all and he's a smart football player and he'll get there and he's well on his way."

Stafford said he's already seeing the benefits of Johnson trying better to understand more of what teams do to stop him.

"Sometimes we can just feel it," Stafford said. "He'll come up to me and say, 'Hey, get it in there a little quicker' or he'll get out of a break a little quicker.

"Other times I come up to him and talk about a play five plays ago and he is smart enough to remember it."

Johnson broke the NFL's single-season record for yards last season with 1,964 and caught 122 footballs. He's beating defenses plenty with his physical skills, just imagine if he has them beat before the ball is snapped.

We also shouldn't forget that he and Stafford have only been together four years.

"Every year that they play together ... it's easy for those guys to say, 'Hey, remember what happened against Dallas three years ago, if that happens again, let's do this,'" head coach Jim Schwartz said about the relationship between Johnson and Stafford.

"The only way that happens is from experience. You've had to play together. Those guys have a great rapport. They don't just work together well on the field, but they work well together off the field, and every bit of experience they get, whether it's a training camp practice, whether it's a preseason game or whether it's a regular season game, whatever it is, that's just one more situation they've been through together and it'll pay off."