Photo Gallery: Eye on the Opponent
Let’s start by talking about Matthew Stafford. What do you see from him?
He has always had a reputation for having a huge arm and that gun slinger reputation. I think he has cut down on that. When you call someone a gun slinger it means you take a lot of chances, force a lot of balls. He has been extremely smart this year. When you combine that with the extreme talent he has, he is having an amazing year. He is extremely efficient and he is putting up big numbers.
He is a guy that makes good, fast decisions, and puts the ball where he needs to for his guys to make plays. How do you defend against that?
When you have Calvin Johnson it’s an easy decision to make. You just throw it to him. It’s not like a lot of thought is going into those decisions. He is an extremely fast decision maker so you have to get hands on receivers, you have to be physical, but anticipation is going to be a big part of our game, understanding where he wants to go with the ball, what formations they do certain things out of and what route combinations you will get from that. You can’t anticipate what he is going to do, but you have to anticipate what your guy is going to do as far as your receiver or running back that you are covering.
His go-to guy, everyone knows what he can do, but what do you see as Calvin Johnson’s strengths?
Everything. Right now he does all of the things you need to be a receiver extremely well. He runs great routes, has extremely good hands, he is patient in running his routes and does all of the other stuff nobody else can do. He beats triple coverage, jumps over guy’s heads, he is 6-6, runs a 4.3, he is strong, and breaks tackles. If you need him to be a normal receiver and just do the basics, he can do that, but he also excels at doing the things not from this world. He is a Martian. He is an alien. For us a big key in winning this game is trying to stop him.
How tough is it to defend a guy with his size and strength?
You just have to be as physical as you can not so much covering him, but stopping him from catching the ball. You can be right there and he can still make the play. We need to be physical tackling him. Every time he gets the ball he needs to know he’s in a football game.
You talked about trying to stop him. It is stopping him, or slowing him down?
It’s like Michael Jordan, when you played him and he scored 26 points it was an extremely good night for the guy defending him and the team playing him. I think Calvin is like that. You can’t let him exploit you for big plays. He can’t have one of those 200-yard days with two or three touchdowns. You have to keep him out of the end zone and make them work to matriculate the ball down the field. You can’t let him get over the top of you. If you can do that, that is about as much stopping him that you can do.
Does he compare to anyone you have ever had to defense against?
A young Randy Moss. He was probably better at some things than Calvin is, but Calvin is stronger and a better run after the catch guy. Their ability to jump and get the ball at its highest point, their ability to beat double coverage, I think he is the only one you can compare to what Calvin is doing right now.
Coach (Mike) Tomlin called him the best wide receiver in the game and one of the best football players period, regardless of position, in the game of professional football. Do you agree?
That is true. I think if you take quarterbacks out of the game he is at the top of the list of players that are important. You can add Adrian Peterson into that conversation as well. But Calvin Johnson would be in the top three names.
Does it take all hands on deck to slow him down?
It’s going to be a team effort. We have to get pressure on the quarterback. Coach (Dick) LeBeau is going to have to call an extremely solid game to get us in great position and we know he will do that. For us as defensive backs it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a fight. We have to go out there and approach it in that manner.
While many might think their offense begins and ends with him, you guys know better. There is a guy named Reggie Bush that can’t be ignored.
That is why they went out to get him, to get that added big play ability from the backfield. When they had Jahvid Best and he was healthy that is what they did. The field opens up for running backs when you have Calvin Johnson. You can’t play eight man boxes because you have to pay so much attention to him. The screen game is really huge for them, getting Reggie Bush in space. He is one of the most dynamic open field runners in the NFL and they have done a good job of being smart enough to get the ball in his hands in the right situation.
The way he is being used, do you look at him as a running back/receiver?
He can do it all. He is learning to run inside the tackles, which is why you can keep him on the field so much now. It’s a lot different than what people used to say about him. Clearly he brings something huge to the game when it comes to the passing game. Check downs, screen game, reverses, you can use him in trick plays in so many different formations. He is a guy you have to pinpoint as well.