RENTON – Being tasked with slowing down Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, one of the best receivers in the NFL, is just another day at the office for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
“I don’t care who’s out there,” Sherman said. “It’s the league. You’re going to have a good receiver out there every week, whether it’s Fitz (Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald), Steve Smith shoot, you’ve got Brandon Lloyd. It ain’t no different. He’s a good receiver.”
So the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson doesn’t present a unique challenge?
“It’s nothing for a guy who’s 6-3,” Sherman said, chuckling. “There’s nothing unique about it. ... Actually it might be a little less of an issue – because of his height, we’re closer in size so you move similar to him.
“It’s better than the small, little guys who you don’t move the same as. He’s got long strides, I’ve got long strides – you know what I’m saying? We’ve got similar body types.”
The Seahawks are one of the few teams that match up well against Johnson because of 6-3 Sherman and 6-4 Brandon Browner – the biggest cornerback tandem in the league.
“They have giants in the secondary,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “They have 6-4 and 6-3 cornerbacks. I think (Seattle strong safety) Kam Chancellor is 6-3. With those guys it’s like a junior college basketball team out there with their great length.”
Still, Seattle coach Pete Carroll views things differently than Sherman.
“The problem is that they throw it to (Johnson) whether he is covered or not, and he just goes and makes his plays,” Carroll said. “He can do all of the stuff. He’s got the whole route tree available to him. Where he’s most dangerous is when they throw it up, and he goes up and makes his plays, especially when you’re defending the play and he still wins.”
In his sixth season, Johnson is a two-time Pro Bowl selection nicknamed “Megatron” from the cartoon “Transformers” because of his superhuman-like ability on the field.
Sherman changed his Twitter handle to “Optimus Prime” this week – Megatron’s nemesis in the TV show.
Last year, Johnson finished with a career-high 85 catches for 1,437 yards and 15 touchdowns. But this season he’s been “held” to 38 receptions for 592 yards – and more important – just one touchdown in six games.
Johnson has been targeted 67 times – tied for sixth most in the league.
“He’s a big dude,” Browner said. “We ain’t really worried about him being too shifty at the line of scrimmage, but he poses a challenge for the simple fact that he gets a lot of targets. He’s a great athlete. He runs a 4.3 (40-yard time). He can jump out of the gym, so it will be a fun challenge for us.”
Teams have used several different ways of shadowing Johnson, from bracketing him with a corner at the line of scrimmage and a safety over the top, to putting two defensive backs on him at the line of scrimmage and jamming him, like teams would a gunner on the punt team.
But perhaps Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman provided a blueprint for how the Seahawks might deal with the athletic Johnson.
At 6-2, Tillman is similar in stature to Sherman and Browner. He harassed Johnson all evening and contested most of his 11 targets, limiting Johnson to three catches for 34 yards in Chicago’s 13-7 win over Detroit on Monday night.
Tillman earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his effort.
Seattle players watched the Monday Night Game as a homework assignment in preparation for the Lions this week, and Sherman took notice of Tillman’s performance.
“Tillman has just played against him for a long time,” Sherman said. “He’s been playing him every year, so he’s just kind of gotten used to playing him.
“But he’s a similar-sized corner as me and BB (Brandon Browner). We play a little different defense than them, so it’s not quite the blueprint, but he showed some things you can do against him.”
BALDWIN OUT WITH ANKLE SPRAIN
Carroll said Seattle’s leading receiver from last year, Doug Baldwin, has a high-ankle sprain and likely will not play in Sunday’s game at Detroit.
Baldwin did not practice Wednesday.
Baldwin has dealt with a rash of injuries this season, starting with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of exhibition play. Baldwin also had a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Green Bay game.
Because of the injuries, Baldwin’s numbers have suffered. He has 11 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown in six games played.
“Unfortunately he’s going to be a couple weeks out anyway,” Carroll said. “That’s a change for us because we were just getting him going and felt like he was coming around. But we’ll get him back when we can.”
Carroll said Charly Martin and Golden Tate will fill in at slot receiver with Baldwin out.
Defensive lineman Jason Jones also did not practice Wednesday because of a sore ankle, and cornerback Byron Maxwell remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) has been cleared, according to Carroll, and practiced Wednesday.
Carroll said he’ll take a close look at cornerback Walter Thurmond (leg) and offensive lineman John Moffitt (knee) this week to see how close they are to being able to play.
Carroll would not say if either player will figure into the equation this weekend.
Both were full participants in practice Wednesday.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams