Jimmy Smith has seen one of the biggest turnarounds for the Baltimore Ravens in recent memory, but the former first-round pick will have his hands full Monday night when he is asked to cover Calvin Johnson — otherwise known as “Megatron” — of the Detroit Lions.
Smith has earned more playing time this season in comparison to his first two because he’s stood up to the challenge of covering the opposition’s top receiving threats. He’s minimized the impacts of guys like Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Josh Gordon to name a few. All of these were litmus tests for the benchmark exam he is preparing to take at Ford Field.
There isn’t a better combination of size, speed, hands and will to catch the football than Johnson in the NFL. At 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, he is a tough matchup for anyone physically — even a 6-foot-2, 200-pound corner like Smith. Smith has been one in the past to say that he doesn’t particularly like press coverage, even though he excels at it. While it may or may not work against Johnson, it’s probably the best option in trying to stymie him because he’s going to get his regardless.
There’s no snow in the dome. The conditions are perfect for throwing the football. Johnson will undoubtedly play faster than he did against the Philadelphia Eagles. He will be a tough matchup when lined up on Lardarius Webb‘s side of the field given his size advantage and comparable agility and quickness.
No one player should dictate how a team executes or formulates their game plan. Johnson is one of those players that blurs that thought process, but Baltimore must stick to who they are and line up Smith where they normally do opposite Lardarius Webb — Webb lines up on the left side of the defense and Smith lines up on the right side. Too much change can create too much chaos and confusion.
The Ravens won’t eliminate Johnson’s impact, but they can corral it and keep him to a reduced total if they play assignment football and disrupt his pathways to routes. Easier said than done.