Twentyman: Calvin Johnson is about as un-coverable as they come

Posted Dec 19, 2012

The Arizona Cardinals put two defensive backs on Calvin Johnson at the line of scrimmage, treating him as a gunner on punt coverage. Johnson still beat it.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz called Calvin Johnson a ‘marked man’ when speaking to the media Wednesday.

It’s hard to argue with him after watching the strategy the Cardinals had for him at times Sunday when they put two defensive backs on him at the line of scrimmage, treating him as a gunner on punt coverage.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has seen other opponents take the same approach with Johnson before, but only in the red zone, and never between the 20-yard lines.

“That’s the first time,” he said. “I think I told Calvin, I said ‘I saw Green Bay do it to (Randy) Moss my first year (as Vikings offensive coordinator).’ But they always did it with a linebacker and then they added him in. They didn’t keep two guys on him it was more of a ‘don’t let him get started.’

"This was like a punt and they held him. I guess you can hold him at the line of scrimmage, I don’t know. That was their plan. It definitely discourages your ability to get a guy the ball.”

It certainly discouraged quarterback Matthew Stafford from throwing Johnson the ball when the Cardinals decided to do it. But after watching the film, Stafford said that might not have been such a good idea.

“The funny thing is he gets the vice in the first third down of the game and I didn’t even look to him, but he actually beat it,” Stafford said. “If you go back and look at film he beat it. So maybe I have to start giving him a chance even when he’s doubled at the line.”

There were a couple times, actually, outside of the first third down, when it looked like Johnson could have made a play even with the vice on.

"I just figured … gotta beat it," Johnson said of his mentality vs. the vice. "You just find that shoulder, use your leverage. You know what you gotta do so you just find a way to beat it."

As the video shows, teams will go to great lengths to try and limit Johnson. Not much of it has worked as he still has 106 catches for 1,667 yards and five touchdowns, and even in a two-against-one situation, Calvin Johnson was able to beat two NFL-caliber cornerbacks.

That is about as uncoverable as it gets in the NFL.