There’s no doubt in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s mind on who’s the best wide receiver in the NFL. There’s also no hesitation in his voice when asked if that receiver is Lions wideout Calvin Johnson.
“No question,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
So the fact that Rodgers-Cromartie, New York’s prized free-agent acquisition that signed a mega five-year deal this offseason, is playing Detroit’s ‘Megatron,’ has to hype the corner up. This game, under the lights of Monday Night football, has to mean a little more, yes?
“No,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
No, really, it has to. Johnson is a record-breaking, All-Pro and Pro Bowl pass catcher.
“Gotta look at him as just another guy,” Rodgers-Cromartie said while shaking his head. “It’s just another game.”
On Monday night in Detroit, Rodgers-Cromartie will look to change his nickname from ‘DRC’ to ‘Optimus Prime’ in an attempt to contain Johnson. A task few defensive backs have been able to accomplish ever since Johnson entered the league in 2007.
During his eight-year NFL Career, Johnson has caught 572 passes for 9,328 yards and 66 touchdowns. Last year, he caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 scores in just 14 games.
Two years ago? It was a record-breaking 1,964 receiving yards.
Rodgers-Cromartie has had his fair share of battles against Johnson during his seven-year career. The cornerback and receiver have gone up one-on-one during Rodgers-Cromartie’s stints in Philadelphia and Arizona.
“You see guys with his body, but the difference is he has the speed to beat you down the field,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He has the big hands to go up and get the ball. With a guy like that, you have to play physical.
“You gotta go up there, put your hand son him and disrupt him as much as you can.”
While Rodgers-Cromartie will undoubtedly face Johnson at some point Monday night, it won’t be every play. After Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Rodgers-Cromartie would follow an opponent’s top target all over the field prior to the start of training camp, it appears as if there’s been a change of heart.
In a 23-20 overtime victory over the Lions last year, the Giants kept with their same cornerback approach, leaving one player on the left side, and one on the right. The technique worked. While Johnson wasn’t 100 percent, the Giants still contained him, limiting the receiver to four receptions for 43 yards. So, come Monday night, it’ll be Rodgers-Cromartie on one side, and Prince Amukamara on the other.
Johnson knows this, and appears ready for whomever he has to face.
“Both (Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie) have pretty good ball skills,” Johnson said in a conference call. “Cromartie is a very shifty guy, a very long guy. Prince likes to get his hands on you, it seems like, early in the play.”