LIONS INSIDER

Johnson ready to show Seattle why he earned his nickname

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Seattle CB Richard Sherman leads a brash and physical secondary into Ford Field on Sunday.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman changed his name on Twitter to read “Optimus Prime” for this week’s matchup vs. the Lions and receiver Calvin Johnson.

Johnson has gone by the name Megatron since 2007, when former Lions receiver Roy Williams gave him the nickname.

Optimus Prime - if you didn’t know - is the mortal enemy of Megatron in the popular children’s Transformers cartoon and recent Michael Bay blockbuster film series.

“Self-given nickname - if that's who he wants to be, that's cool,” Johnson said after practice Thursday of Sherman's jab. “I can use it as motivation, no doubt about it."

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan did a similar thing last year when he publicly said Johnson would be the third best receiver on the Cowboys' roster.

Johnson proceeded to catch eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns in a Lions win.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz made a point to give the game ball to the third best receiver after that game.

“Those things you have to take with a grain of salt, but at the same time, they can be extra motivation for you," Johnson said. "That's how you have to use everything. Anything negative that comes your way, use it as motivation.”
Sherman leads a brash and physical secondary into Ford Field on Sunday that ranks eighth against the pass and are holding opponents to 212 yards per game and opposing quarterbacks to a 74.2 passer rating.

Their secondary is unique in that three of their four starters in the back end stand 6-foot-3 or taller. It’s rare to have one defensive back that big, but three in the same secondary?

Sherman is 6-3, cornerback Brandon Browner is 6-4 and strong safety Kam Chancellor is 6-3.

“That’s like a junior college basketball team,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz joked this week. “They’ve got some length and some size. They play physical.

“I think it’s their length that’s important to the way that they play. It’s hard to throw the ball over top of them because they’re No.1 tall and No. 2 long arms to go along with it. They’ve done a good job for them.”

It’s not just a matter of being tall, either. They play physical in man at the line of scrimmage and they play well as a unit. Browner, Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas (5-10), who is their smallest and probably most talented player back there, represented the NFC in the Pro Bowl last year.

Asked about covering Johnson this week, Sherman told the Tacoma-Seattle News Tribune that there’s nothing unique about it.

“It’s nothing for a guy who’s 6-3,” Sherman told the paper. “There’s nothing unique about it... Actually it might be a little less of an issue – because of his height, we’re closer in size so you move similar to him.

“It’s better than the small, little guys who you don’t move the same. He’s got long strides, I’ve got long strides – you know what I’m saying? We’ve got similar body types.”

Seattle players watched the Bears/Lions Monday Night game as a homework assignment, according to the paper, and Sherman said he took notice of how Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who is a bigger cornerback at 6-foot-2, was on Johnson for most of his 11 targets and held him to three catches for 34 yards, his lowest output of the season.

“He showed some things you can do against him,” he said.

Despite having only one touchdown on the season, Johnson still ranks fifth among all receivers with 592 yards and is averaging 15.6 yards per reception.

He sees this matchup a little different and thinks the advantage might actually be facing a bigger corner in Sherman.
“You figure eventually it's going to happen,” Johnson said of bigger corners playing in the league. “With receivers getting bigger and bigger, eventually the corners are going to start being bigger and bigger. One thing with that, the small guys can transition and move quicker.

“The receiver should always have the advantage as far as that goes. It's just being aggressive to the ball when playing guys like that.”

Lions center Dominic Raiola has seen it before and says sometimes you get what you wish for.

“I think for a guy like (Calvin), if anything you’d wake him up,” he said. “You’d wake a monster up.”