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Bartell, Rams set to battle 'Megatron'
BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Friday, October 8, 2010 9:15 am
When the St. Louis Rams beat Detroit last year at Ford Field, the Lions' best player wasn't on the field. The Rams won't be as fortunate this time around.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who missed that game with a knee injury, is healthy and coming off a two-touchdown performance last week against Green Bay. With apologies to Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who was playing at less than 100 percent in the season opener because of a knee injury of his own, the Rams won't play a better receiver this season than Johnson.
"Calvin Johnson probably physically is the most imposing wide receiver in the NFL," Rams cornerback Ron Bartell said. "As far as height, weight, speed, there's nobody like him. He's 6-5, 240 pounds and runs a 4.3. I don't think there's too many guys in the league that can do that."
Actually, there's not too many guys on Planet Earth who can do that.
"Right," Bartell said, laughing. "That's why they call him Megatron, right?"
Megatron is a Transformers character who is big and very menacing. Which kind of sums up Johnson.
Even with quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Lions do have some options on offense. They have a pair of talented tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, as well as speedy rookie running back Jahvid Best.
Fearing the Rams might take Best with the first pick of the second round last April, the Lions traded into the first round ahead of St. Louis to take Best at No. 30 overall. Best leads the NFL with five TDs even though he has been slowed by a toe injury.
But the one difference-maker, the one game-changer, on the Detroit roster is Megatron, uh, Johnson. He had what would've been a game-winning TD catch taken away from him on a dubious ruling in the season opener at Chicago.
"Thanks for reminding me about that," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said, laughing. "Calvin's that guy that even if he's covered, is still open. He can jump really high in the air, he's six-foot-five...and has that NBA leaping ability. He's a big target, can run after the catch, all those different things. He means a lot to us because when Calvin's going good our run game should get opened up a little more."
Not to mention the tight ends having room to roam underneath.
No wonder, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, after answering a question Thursday about defensive tackle Clifton Ryan's migraine headaches, couldn't resist a joke when asked about defending Johnson.
"I myself have had three migraines this week," Spagnuolo quipped. "He's really good. I say it half-kidding, but he's elite now. As big as he is, as fast as he runs, he's got great hands. Throw the ball up, he finds a way to come down with it."
Johnson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech, had his best year in '08 when he had 78 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 TDs. His numbers dipped to 67 catches for 984 yards and five TDs last year when Johnson missed two games with the knee injury and the Lions were breaking in a rookie QB in Stafford.
Bartell, who leads the Rams with seven pass breakups this season, did an admirable job shadowing Fitzgerald in Game 1, straying from his usual spot at left corner to follow him. Is a similar assignment in the works Sunday with Bartell shadowing Johnson?
"I wouldn't tell you," Bartell said, smiling. "Hopefully, I'll get my opportunities to go up against him. I'm a competitor. He's considered one of the best in the league. I feel like I'm a pretty good corner. So I'm looking forward to the matchup."
Re: Bartell, Rams set to battle 'Megatron'
7 pass breakups so far this year. That's an excellent number already.
Re: Bartell, Rams set to battle 'Megatron'Bartell, who leads the Rams with seven pass breakups this season, did an admirable job shadowing Fitzgerald in Game 1, straying from his usual spot at left corner to follow him. Is a similar assignment in the works Sunday with Bartell shadowing Johnson?
Regardless, I agree that this will probably be his biggest test of the season. I'm looking forward to seeing how he holds up.
Re: Bartell, Rams set to battle 'Megatron'
All we can do is try to keep the damage "Megatron" does to a minimum. Getting consistent pressure on Hill would be a good start.
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