Johnson, Williams pose big challenges

The Lions' giant receivers will square off against the Packers' physical corners — a group that could be without Charles Woodson.

Even though the Lions no longer feature Mike Martz's pass-happy offensive attack, Detroit's offense poses some big challenges to a Packers defense that was barely tested through the air last week against Minnesota.

Namely, those challenges are 6-foot-5, 239-pound Calvin Johnson and 6-foot-3, 211-pound Roy Williams at wide receiver. Johnson seems poised for a breakout season, while Williams and Packers cornerback Al Harris have engaged in several games inside of games during Williams' first four NFL seasons.

Johnson, the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, had a relatively disappointing 48 catches for 756 yards and four touchdowns last year, but opened this season with seven catches for 107 yards in a 34-21 loss to Atlanta. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Johnson kept quiet about a nagging back injury last season but is healthy and "getting better and better each week."

The challenge of facing Johnson could be even more daunting if veteran cornerback Charles Woodson doesn't play or is slowed because of a broken toe that held him out of practice all week. While the 5-foot-10 Tramon Williams did well against Johnson last season — Woodson exited with a toe injury on Thanksgiving at Ford Field and got the season finale off at Lambeau Field — it's a huge size mismatch.

Johnson might be the closest thing to Randy Moss in the league based on pure physical tools with his combination of height and athleticism. So, even if Tramon Williams does everything right, he might be defenseless.

"He's like a big rebounder in basketball," Marinelli said in a conference call on Wednesday, adding: "It's tough. He's either going to get a (pass interference) or he's going to go up and make a good catch. He can jump. The guy's got unbelievable jumping ability at 6-5 or whatever he is."

"When he's healthy and he's running full speed," quarterback Jon Kitna said on Wednesday, "he's a force on the football field."

The key for the Packers will be to prevent Johnson from "running full speed." Whether it's Woodson or Williams, they will get physical with Johnson to knock him off of his routes and disrupt the timing.

Johnson's fellow first-round sidekick, Roy Williams, is one of the league's more enigmatic receivers. He's as talented as any receiver in the league, but he's broken 65 catches and 850 yards just once in his career, 2006, when he caught 82 passes for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. And while he gets up for his annual matchups against Harris, Harris has been the undisputed winner five of the six times. Roy Williams has had just one 100-yard game against Green Bay (seven catches, 138 yards, one touchdown at Detroit in 2006), but has been limited to one catch twice, two catches once and three ineffective catches once.

Harris, who had issues against the Giants' 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress in the NFC title game, said he doesn't change his game, regardless of who he's facing or how big he is.

"It's not about how big a guy is. It's what they do," Harris said. "You adjust your game to what they do. It's not so much that the guy is 6-5 or the guy is 5-9. You don't switch up your technique at all. You just recognize what they do."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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