OWINGS MILLS — Calvin Johnson is a unique entity when it comes to the emergence of imposing wide receivers around the NFL.
The Detroit Lions’ standout doesn’t typically encounter anyone bigger than him, and there are few defensive backs stronger or faster than the former Georgia Tech star.
At 6-foot-5, 239 pounds, Johnson is typically the king of the football mountain whenever he’s healthy.
“Calvin Johnson, it’s a matchup nightmare,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s as good as anybody in the league. He’s tall, he’s fast, he’s got great hands, and he’s very tough.
“He goes up and catches passes. He’s not afraid to catch the ball over the middle. He’s just a tremendous player.”
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, Johnson likes his chances against a secondary exploited for three touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers during a 27-14 loss against the Green Bay Packers.
“They have some talented players back there, but definitely Green Bay found some holes over there that they’re trying to exploit,” Johnson said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “There were a bunch of flags in that game as well. So, we should have some chances.”
Last season, Johnson was the primary bright spot on a winless team with 78 receptions for 1,331 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
Despite struggling with injuries this season, Johnson has caught 47 passes for 730 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 15.5 yards per catch.
“He’s a talent, one of the best receivers in the game,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “I feel like a broken record because week in, week out, everyone in the league has a strong passing attack.”
Although the Ravens’ cornerbacks are relatively small, they have fared well against big receivers this season with the exception of San Diego Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson earlier this season. Jackson, who’s 6-5, 230 pounds, caught six passes for 141 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught four passes for 24 yards against Baltimore with New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss limited to three catches for 50 yards with one touchdown.
“Calvin gets pretty much doubled pretty much whenever he’s out there all the time,” Harbaugh said.”And if you don’t, you’re asking for trouble. But you can’t double every single coverage, because the numbers don’t allow you to sometimes.”
Johnson doesn’t lack for confidence, too.
Whenever he lines up across from a smaller defensive back, he feels like he has the edge.
“Yeah, definitely, I have to,” he said. “When I step out onto the field, that’s the way I feel every Sunday.
“Just a combination of size and speed and being physical. You know, being physical is a big part. I like our matchup that we have.”
INJURY UPDATE: Free safety Ed Reed (strained groin, foot) and wide receiver Mark Clayton (tweaked right hamstring, foot) didn’t practice again Friday and are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.
A magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a strain in Reed’s groin, and he missed his first start in 64 games Monday.
“He’s working hard on the mental part of it,” Harbaugh said regarding Reed. “He’s been through the walkthroughs and he’s feeling better. Really, we won’t know until Sunday.”
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (foot), tight end L.J. Smith (sprained ankle) and offensive lineman David Hale (concussion) didn’t practice again, too.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (sprained left medial collateral ligament) didn’t attend practice due to his court hearing regarding a restraining order granted against him. He’s listed as questionable and is also considered to be a game-time decision.
“Same thing, I’d put him in the same category [as Reed],” Harbaugh said.
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (foot) is questionable despite not practicing all week.
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (back, left shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis after being held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. He’s listed as questionable.
Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (back) was limited again and is questionable.
Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee, hip, ankle) is probable, as is kicker Billy Cundiff (concussion).
Harbaugh said that Flacco’s knee is not a cause for concern.
“Yeah, I don’t even know about the knee, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think it’s just part of the bumps and bruises that he has right now. It’s definitely not a major thing.”
QUICK HITS: Lions defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) was upgraded to limited work in practice. Jackson is probable along with linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring), defensive end Dewayne White (toe), free safety Louis Delmas (ankle), cornerback William James (neck) and punter Nick Harris (left knee). .. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (separated left, non-throwing shoulder) is doubtful, and offensive tackle Daniel Loper (back) is questionable. … Harbaugh acknowledged that he’ll be keeping an eye on a few games on the scoreboard. That likely includes watching out for the results involving fellow AFC wild-card contenders like the Jacksonville Jaguars versus the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “It’s hard not to, in reality, because it’s up there,” Harbaugh said. “I think a couple weeks ago there was a score that came up there that our fans were excited about and they went crazy, and it catches your attention. So, sure, that’s part of the whole thing, but it’s a brief moment.” … Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron took exception with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden characterizing the Ravens as lacking a sense of urgency at the end of their 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “Absolutely not,” Cameron said. “We didn’t execute the way we were capable, and we knew we were going against a good defense. And we kind of relish that opportunity, and obviously we didn’t take care of some of the things we needed to take care of, but the sense of urgency was there. The execution was not where we want it to be, and we’ve got to get those things corrected going into this week.” … Cameron outlined why Marshal Yanda has reclaimed his old starting job at right guard over Chris Chester. Yanda is regarded as a more aggressive, grittier blocker than Chester. “Chris gives us some flexibility at the tight end position now and fullback,” Cameron said. “You’ve seen him in there in other instances, but Marshal is a good football player and we wanted to get him in the lineup and see what he could do. In the Pittsburgh game, it worked out well. He’s a good football player, and Chris is a good football player, and we’re obviously going to need both guys.” …
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison doesn’t buy into the perception that the referees are out to get the Ravens even though the team has been flagged for an NFL-high 12 pass interference penalties. "If you’re asking are they doing that more toward us than anyone else, then no," Mattison said. "I wouldn’t say that. The bottom line is if that’s what they saw as a penalty, then that was a penalty in their mind, and that’s their job to call it. I would never say, ‘Hey, they’re out to get the Ravens, and they’re doing that against our defensive backs.’ I don’t believe that." … Harbaugh was complimentary of hard-hitting Lions rookie free safety Louis Delmas, a second-round pick from Western Michigan who has recorded 69 tackles and one interception while starting every game. Delmas visited the Ravens before the NFL draft. “We interviewed him, we spent a lot of time studying him,” Harbaugh said. “We really liked him a lot, and obviously he’s played really well. Very physical in their box run game stuff, good cover guy. As a rookie, he’s done a great job.” … If Cundiff can’t go due to his concussion, the Ravens would sign another kicker on Saturday. However, Harbaugh doesn’t expect it to come to that. “If something comes up, we’ll have to go sign a kicker and we have a plan to do that,” Harbaugh said. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that. We don’t think it will because he kicked well, but we do have a plan.”