Can anyone shut down Calvin Johnson in the red zone?
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The top two route concepts inside of the 5-yard line in NFL playbooks? The slant and fade. A quick, one-step drop from the QB and the ball is out.
In Detroit, I’m starting to think this is guaranteed points—because of WR Calvin Johnson.
On Sunday, Johnson (who already has 4 TD catches this season) ran the slant route for a score in the 48-3 win over the Chiefs. In Week 1, we saw the fade route vs. Bucs’ CB Aqib Talib. Here’s a look back at the TD vs. Tampa…
What do you see on the replay? Good technique at the point of attack from Talib. Works up through the hands to “play the pocket” vs. Johnson. But when we talk about the ability to go up and catch the football at the highest point (classic coach speak), the Lions WR is going to win this matchup—almost every time.
From a coaching perspective, I would teach my CBs to align in a press-look with an inside shade in this situation. Cut off any inside release (slant) and drive to the hip on an outside release (fade). The problem (as we saw in the video) is playing the ball vs. Johnson. That’s where his overall skill set takes over.
I’m not going to say that he is unstoppable inside the 5-yard line, because technique at the CB position always sells in the NFL. But after two weeks—and two TDs—I am starting to think Johnson is the best red zone weapon in the game.
And he is going to continue to put points on the board for a 2-0 football team that looks like an early contender in the NFC North.
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