Megatron finally cementing himself as top NFL wideout


Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson is emerging as the NFL’s best wide receiver. Photo by: DonkerDink.Flickr

At 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, and boasting a 4.35 40-yard dash and 44 inch vertical leap, Calvin Johnson has always been a man amongst boys.

Ever since being selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2007 NFL Draft, the wide receiver known as “Megatron” has made opposing cornerbacks look like small children, compiling 5,628 yards receiving and 48 touchdowns since entering the league. For years he was the only legitimate offensive threat on a horrendous Lions offense that consistently ranked in the bottom half of total team offense every year. Johnson’s progression has been further hounded by minor injuries that plagued his first few seasons. Yet as the Lions emerge into relevance for the first time in over a decade, a healthy Calvin Johnson is reaping the benefits and establishing himself as the premier wideout in the NFL.

With one game left to play in the 2011 NFL regular season, Calvin has amassed 85 receptions, totaling a career-best 1,437 receiving yards with a league leading 15 touchdowns. In addition, he is 2nd in the league with 25 25-plus yard receptions and 1st in receptions of 40-plus yards with nine. Much of Johnson’s impressive production can be attributed to his stellar rapport with gunslinger Matthew Stafford, who has finally proved he can stay healthy over the course of a full season. Other offensive weapons include veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson, rookie burner Titus Young, promising tight end Brandon Pettigrew,
and the running back trio of Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris, and Kevin Smith (too bad they all keep getting injured). Now that the Lions offense contains other playmaking weapons, defenses cannot key in solely on Calvin, which has allowed him to take his game to a higher level.

Calvin has consistently demonstrated he cannot be contained via single coverage. His immense skill set allows him to either blaze past defenders or simply out jump them. Even when triple teamed he is still open, because his height and leaping ability allow him to elevate to snatch the ball out of the air high above the desperate grasps of defenders. If Stafford sees Calvin in the end zone, he won’t hesitate to lob it up for him to go up and get. When defenses have chosen to play Calvin straight-up, they have stood no chance, as evidenced by Calvin’s singlehanded demolition of the Raiders in Week 15.

This is not the first season Calvin has compiled impressive statistics. It’s just the first occasion he hasn’t had to do it all by himself. Randy Moss had Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and a potent New England offense. Reggie Wayne had the field genius known as Peyton Manning. Roddy White has young talent in Matt Ryan and a dynamic (albeit aging) running back in Michael Turner. Andre Johnson has Arian Foster and the talented (and slightly erratic) Matt Schaub. From 2007-2009, Calvin had … Drew Stanton, Dan Orlovsky, and J.T. O’Sullivan.

With virtually no effective supporting cast on offense, defensive secondaries focused almost all their attention on containing Johnson. He would draw constant double or triple teams, and was catching passes from a bevy of sub-par quarterbacks who would rotate the starting role almost weekly. This is what makes Calvin’s success so remarkable; he has achieved so much with so little, relying purely on his immense physical gifts to succeed.

And now Calvin is at the helm of a young and promising high octane Lions offense with a power-armed quarterback, who is finally proving worthy of his loft draft status. He is a member of a team whose name will no longer be synonymous with failure as they enter into a new era of winning.

And Calvin is only 26. He is just getting started.

Move over Andre, let Megatron take your seat at the wide receiver throne. I feel he will be staying in it for a while.

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