Lions’ Johnson to test Browns secondary
CLEVELAND – There’s never a hesitation from Joe Haden when asked which receiver he thinks is the best in the NFL.
Unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your loyalties – the Browns cornerback might not get an opportunity to face Calvin Johnson when the Browns host the Detroit Lions Sunday at First Energy Stadium. Johnson missed last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers with an injured knee and his status for Sunday is questionable.
There’s a part of Haden that would like to see a healthy Johnson on the field. Having perhaps the best season in his four-year NFL career, Haden could gain plenty of attention for his Pro Bowl aspirations with a good game against the best.
“The team and the Browns fans might not want him out there, and I might not want him out there, too, but if he plays it’s always good to go against the best,” Haden said. “But if he doesn’t, it’s a big help and a big knock for the offense.”
Haden doesn’t hide his desire to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. Both Haden and safety T.J. Ward have a Xerox copy of a map of the state of Hawaii in their dressing stalls as a constant reminder of the goal.
There have been a few negative comments about tweets by Haden in reference to his Pro Bowl goals. He doesn’t think it’s a problem as long as he keeps the mission of the team in mind.
“I think it’s okay,” Haden said. “That’s just an individual goal of mine. It has nothing to do with me not thinking about the squad or anything. It’s just something like, ‘hey, it’d be nice if I went to the Pro Bowl.’ “
Haden hasn’t yielded many passing yards this season, and he’s yet to be beaten deep. His biggest task was two weeks ago against A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. Green showed obvious signs of frustration in being limited to seven receptions for 51 yards.
Green is close to the top of the list of receivers in Haden’s pecking order. Johnson, an imposing figure at 6-5 and 236 pounds, has skills that no other receiver in the league possesses. He’s proven his excellence in six previous seasons, catching 488 passes for 7,836 yards and 54 touchdowns.
“For one thing, his quarterback (Matthew Stafford) has so much confidence in him and he’s able to just go up and get the ball,” Haden said. “His range of catching the ball is tremendous. He’s fast, strong, and he has a really good quarterback throwing it to him, so that always helps.”
The Browns have prepared this week as if Johnson will play. He missed Wednesday’s practice. He wore a brace but wasn’t able to run routes Thursday.
The decision by Lions coach Jim Schwartz on Johnson’s availability will likely be made shortly before the start of the game.
“It’s completely different,” Haden said. “You can tell if you’re missing a dynamic player like him. It’s like his comfort blanket basically (for Stafford). So if he’s missing him, it’s going to be a completely different offense. But with him, you’ve always got to know where he’s at. They move him around and they just try to get him the ball anyway possible.
Not having that option would be a big blow for the Lions.