The Eagles have played against a number of the top receivers in the NFL already this season. From Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson and Dez Bryant, and most recently Pierre Garcon and Larry Fitzgerald, the Eagles secondary has been tested time and time again.
But they have yet to see a talent like Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
Standing at 6-foot-5 with blazing speed and terrific hands, "Megatron" makes all of those other receivers look like pieces of scrap metal. Johnson's nickname comes from the antagonist of the Transformers series – the evil leader of the Decepticons, who hail from another planet.
According to Chip Kelly, maybe that explains Johnson's out-of-this-world talent.
"(Is there another receiver like him) in this world? No," Kelly said earlier this week. "You look at the Cowboys game (14 catches, 329 yards and a touchdown), 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.
"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. I think sometimes when you're playing people, you can say, 'Hey, if we double this guy with our play call, we got two good guys that can double him. You're in good shape.' 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."
For Bill Davis' defense, seeing Fitzgerald last weekend certainly helps, but the Eagles defensive coordinator believes that Johnson's ability remains unmatched.
"He's 6-foot-5 and he's got a huge vertical, so his catch radius is second to none," said Davis. "(He and Fitzgerald) are similar players in that they're big-bodied and they go up and get the ball away from their body. They snatch it well out of the air. Fitzgerald is one of the top (receivers) in the NFL, but Calvin is the best, I think. When you watch him game in and game out, what he can do with that size/speed ratio, he's the best."
Johnson's 1,299 yards leads all NFL receivers, and he's also managed to find the end zone 12 times. Eagles fans may remember that the Lions came to Philadelphia last season, and in that game Johnson caught six passes for 135 yards. This time around, the Eagles have a very different look in the secondary. One of those new faces, Cary Williams, views the task of defending the athletic wideout as a welcomed challenge.
"You've got a 236-pound grown man running a 4.3 who can jump out of the gym," Williams said. "He's a glorified basketball player playing football, with tremendous body control and he can catch the ball away from his body … I think that Calvin is a great challenge. It's one of those situations where you don't back down from it, you look forward to it. It's another opportunity for me to get better.
"Sometimes he can jump into the stratosphere and get up there and catch the ball. At the end of the day, you play with good technique and good fundamentals. If we play where we're supposed to be, it puts us in a better position to be successful against a guy. He's an unbelievable talent, but like I said before, this is a situation where we won't back down. We welcome the challenge, and it's an opportunity for us to get better."
Williams won't be the only cornerback matched up with Johnson, however. Davis' scheme typically has the Eagles corners sticking to one side of the formation throughout the game, meaning that Bradley Fletcher will also get his chance to defend to No. 81.
"You've got to be able to play everything at its high point," Fletcher explained. "You've got to go after the ball in the air. We were able to do that last Sunday, and now we're going into another game here with Detroit where we have that situation going on with a guy like Calvin Johnson and we'll have to play at a high level again this week.
"We definitely have our task in front of us. It will be a big one for us, but we can definitely make some plays, as long as we're focused and playing the ball aggressively."
Johnson will move all over the field, lining up both outside the numbers and in the slot. According to Brandon Boykin, it will take a collaborative effort to play the role of the good guy, Optimus Prme opposite of Megatron."
"It's a collective effort," said Boykin. "We'll all probably have a chance at him … Calvin is going to go get the ball. You expect him to get the ball most of the time. Whenever there's a deep threat, I think he's going to be the guy. No matter who is matched up on him, we have to be aware of where he is, what the situation is and where he's lined up.
"He is the absolute total package. He doesn't lack anything that a receiver should have with his speed, his catching ability, he already has the height, he's quick off the line, he's strong- so there's nothing that he lacks. For a defensive back, when you play somebody you want to see what their weaknesses are, and he doesn't really have any."
In other words - Autobots, roll out!
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