Oct 9, 2012, 1:50 PM EST
Through five weeks, the Eagles’ defense ranks ninth in passing yards allowed (206.8), and fourth in opponent passer rating (67.1). Despite the decent numbers all-around though, some very good wide receivers have posted good games over the past three weeks. That could spell bad news with Calvin Johnson coming to town.
When Philadelphia hosts Detroit this Sunday, the visiting team will have one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL in their employ. Johnson, widely considered the best in football, is a 6-5, 240 lbs. size-speed nightmare that requires constant double- and triple-coverage. Even still, he has reached the point where defenses cant stop him, and only hope to contain him.
Johnson led the league with 1,681 yards receiving in 2011 — 7th-highest total all-time — and has caught a minimum of 12 touchdowns in three of the past four seasons. He’s off to another fast start this year, catching 29 balls while averaging 105 yards per game.
So while the Birds’ secondary has been very good, clearly they will have their hands full in this matchup. What’s more, while the team’s numbers are very good, some of the better receivers from around the league have been able to pick on them in recent weeks.
It was Antonio Brown for the Steelers, the Pro-Bowl return man who emerged last season as an explosive wide receiver as well. Brown didn’t exactly have a huge afternoon, but his seven catches for 86 yards led the Pittsburgh offense.
One week earlier, Victor Cruz eclipsed 100 yards on nine catches, adding a touchdown as well. Cruz posted those numbers without Hakeem Nicks in the lineup by the way, which didn’t seem to matter as Domenik Hixon went off for 100-plus as well.
But perhaps the most comparable example of what Johnson could do to the Eagles defensive backs came in Arizona a few weeks ago, where the similarly explosive Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 114 yards, including a 37-yard TD. Only that was a team with Kevin Kolb under center, not 2009 first-overall pick Matt Stafford, who threw for over 5,000 yards last season.
As great as Fitzgerald is, which is likely Hall-of-Fame good, right now Johnson is better, and far superior to receivers like Brown and Cruz.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have had success against the pass overall, but preventing individuals from having big days has been a little more mix and match. While Antonio Brown was having a good game, Mike Wallace was held to two catches for 17 yards. Against Baltimore in Week 2, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin were limited to two receptions as well, for 51 and 7 yards respectively. (Sorry, Cleveland, you don’t have any quality receivers.)
Still, none are quite the test they face this Sunday. I wouldn’t expect the Eagles to keep Johnson to two catches, but I would hope they can at least prevent him from grabbing two touchdown passes.
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