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Calvin Johnson Has Plenty of Heart

I have been hearing a disturbing trend recently. It seems there are a lot of fans saying that Calvin Johnson lacks the heart to be a great NFL receiver. I can assure you this is not true.

We all know he has the skills and body to be one of the very best if not the best receiver in the NFL. At 6'5" tall and 236 pounds, Calvin Johnson is an imposing figure for an NFL wide receiver. He has strong soft hands and a great leaping ability to go up above most if not all defensive players to get the ball. Yet last year, he had only 67 catches for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. After 3 weeks in the young 2010 season, Calvin only has 14 snags for 141 yards and a single TD. So many fans begin to wonder, if he is so great, where is the production? Since the fans know he has the abilities and the body size, they begin to question his heart.

The problem with Calvin Johnson's heart is not that he lacks any. More than likely it is the product of the Lemming Effect. In case you do not know, a lemming is a small rodent that has a reputation of mass suicide due to one lemming running into a large river and the rest following it. When people follow what others do or say just because others do it, they are often referred to as lemmings. A few people can call into a radio show, or one writer can write that Calvin Johnson lacks heart and back it up with a few misguided stats. Others (the lemmings) will follow that belief rather than think about the logic of it all. The more people who believe and say something, the more people there will be to believe it must be true. This is what has happened to Calvin Johnson's heart. He has never lacked heart, he only had a few people start saying it, then others believed it, then more people believed it just because so many were saying it.

Lets take a look at Calvin Johnson
When he came into the league, as a rookie, he hurt his back. He played with it for most of the year and had 48 catches, 756 yards and 4 touchdowns. In 2007, as a rookie, he had no running backs or good receivers to take any of the pressure away from him.

Then in 2008 he was healthy, had a better understanding of the playbook, and was able to take advantage of John Kitna in his last year with the Lions throwing to him. He ended the season with 78 receptions, 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the last ten years, these are the players who had seasons that were hands down better than Calvin Johnson's sophomore year.

2008 -- Calvin Johnson ----- 78 Catches -- 1,331 Yards -- 12 TDs
2009 -- Andre Johnson ----- 101 Catches -- 1,569 Yards --- 9 TDs
2008 -- Larry Fitzgerald --- 96 Catches -- 1,431 Yards -- 12 TDs
2007 -- Randy Moss --------- 98 Catches -- 1,493 Yards -- 23 TDs
2007 -- Terrell Owens ------ 81 Catches -- 1,355 Yards -- 15 TDs
2007 -- Braylon Edwards ---- 80 Catches -- 1,289 Yards -- 16 TDs
2006 -- Marvin Harrison ---- 95 Catches -- 1,336 Yards -- 12 TDs
2005 -- Steve Smith ------- 103 Catches -- 1,563 Yards -- 12 TDs
2004 -- Mushin Mahhamed ---- 93 Catches -- 1,405 Yards -- 16 TDs
2004 -- Javon Walker ------- 89 Catches -- 1,382 Yards -- 12 TDs
2003 -- Torry Holt -------- 117 Catches -- 1,696 Yards -- 12 TDs
2003 -- Randy Moss -------- 111 Catches -- 1,632 Yards -- 17 TDs
2002 -- Marvin Harrison --- 143 Catches -- 1,722 Yards -- 11 TDs
2001 -- Marvin Harrison --- 109 Catches -- 1,524 Yards -- 15 TDs
2001 -- Terrell Owens - ---- 93 Catches -- 1,412 Yards -- 16 TDs

THere were several others that were great seasons, but they either had less yards or less TDs making it easy to argue that Calvin's year was better, depending on what stat you favor.

So Calvin Johnson had a season that ranked up there with the greats in 2008, his second year. In 2009, Johnson had a bruised thigh and then had a knee injury to slow him down. He had a rookie quarterback or a has been quarterback throwing to him. His running back was the slow falling forward, Kevin Smith. His best receiver to take pressure off of him was Brandon Pettigrew, a rookie tight end! Not to mention that Pettigrew was also a rookie. This year, Stafford went down in the first game and has not returned yet. The play calling has been horrendous and he has not even been a target until they have gone into a two minute drill.

Most of the other great receivers have a lot more to help them out. Moss has Tom Brady throwing to him. Harrison and Wayne had Manning. Walker had Favre. They have great QBs throwing them the ball. They could have a great running back to pull the defense's focus. They may have had great receivers to accommodate them. The most common denominator however is that they are used right. They are thrown to on all sorts of situations. It could be 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 23. It might be the first play of the game or off of play actions. Whether it is a passing situation or a running situation, the great receivers will be thrown to. When they seem covered, they are thrown to because they will make a play. Calvin Johnson does not have any of these luxuries.

In week 1 against the Bears, Calvin made a touchdown catch to win the game. The refs and the NFL misinterpreted the rules by adding meaning that is not stated in the written rule to take that catch away. What they did not take away however, was the fact he made the catch while backwards in the air. I have seen Calvin Johnson make a lot of acrobatic catches. I have seen him go up and become a defender to stop a poorly thrown pass from being picked off. I have seen him have a great season that matches many of the best in the last decade. I can assure you, if Calvin Johnson was lacking heart, we would not have seen those things.

It takes heart to make it to the NFL in the first place. It takes heart to make diving grabs, and acrobatic catches in the NFL. It takes heart to get 1,331 yards in the NFL. It takes heart to pull in 12 TDs in the NFL. You know what else it takes to get 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns in the NFL? Help! That is something Calvin Johnson has not had.

The Detroit Lions running backs do not have much room to run. Calvin Johnson is often double or even triple covered. If you want to pull some of that coverage off of #81, you need to open the running game. If they want to open the running game, they need to start passing down field. The mistake the Lions are making is that they think to throw the ball down field, the receivers need to be open. For most cases, that is right. But not with receivers of Calvin Johnson's caliber! If he is covered or sometimes even double covered, throw him the ball deep still. Send the other receivers deep and throw them the ball. Send the tight ends or running backs deep and throw them the ball! Once you start taking chances down field, the defense will realize it needs to worry about the deep pass. This will open room for the running backs to run. Once the running game is going, the passing game will open up. But it all starts with trusting your receiver to make plays. Either catching the ball or playing defender if he cant catch it.

If you swapped Calvin Johnson with any of those players (ignoring time-lines of course), Those players would have their heart questioned by Lions fans and Calvin Johnson would be considered one of the very best. Johnson does not lack heart. He lacks trust from his coaches and chances when its not a passing situation already, and help from teammates.

1 comment:

  1. The Lions have done quite well on offense without Stafford, but Calvin Johnson is clearly the key to their success. If Calvin is less than 100% the Lions are going to struggle to move the ball.