Absent Johnson Has ‘Huge’ Impact

The Ravens won’t have to tilt their defense if WR Andre Johnson can’t play.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 10:51 am | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 6 vs Texans

The indications out of Houston are that All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson’s injured hamstring is making progress, but that he still won’t be able to face the Ravens this Sunday.

That’s music to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh’s ears.

“I’m not going to kid you; if he doesn’t play I’ll be smiling,” Harbaugh said Monday.

“They still pose you tons of problems. But the fact that he’s not out there, I mean let’s not kid ourselves, that’s huge.”

The five-time Pro Bowler was off to another big start in 2011, notching 25 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns through 3 ½ weeks before suffering a high ankle sprain against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Johnson also has a strong track record against the Ravens. Last year he caught nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. In 2008, he hauled in seven passes for 66 yards, and in 2005 he had four grabs for 70 yards.

Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson is “day-to-day” and said Johnson could begin running this week. He said they’re expecting to get him back pretty quickly.

One other player who definitely won’t be suiting up is outside linebacker Mario Williams.

“It’s one thing to overcome injuries – that’s part of this business – but you’re talking about two leaders on the football team with Andre [Johnson] and Mario,” Kubiak said. “So, that’s kind of a blow to the guys from a mental standpoint.”

Last year, the Ravens used Ed Reed to help cover Johnson deep, with a cornerback playing underneath. Regardless, Johnson still got behind the Pro Bowl safety for a 46-yard touchdown.

The wide receiver, who Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs nicknamed “The Man Child,” causes defenses to totally change just with his mere presence on the field.

“If he’s out there, you’ve got to tilt the whole defense basically over top of him, or he’ll catch every pass,” Harbaugh said. “He can’t really be covered one-on-one on a consistent basis.”

Without Johnson, the Ravens will likely be able to play more aggressively in trying to stop running back Arian Foster and the running game, and don’t have to drop their safeties as much.

But it isn’t to say Houston still doesn’t have weapons. The Texans turned to tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen last week against Oakland. They caught a combined 12 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Foster was a bigger weapon in the passing game too, catching five passes for 116 yards.

Wideout Jacoby Jones is a speedster on the outside and No. 2 wide receiver Kevin Walter is a reliable threat who had a season-high five catches for 81 yards and a score with Johnson out against Oakland.

Houston also added former Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, who was reportedly traded from the Jets for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. Mason caught two balls for 37 yards in the Jets’ 34-17 loss to the Ravens before the bye.

But none of them are on Johnson’s level. Very few wide receivers are.

“I’m hopeful he’s not going to play,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be preparing as if he’s going to play, but we’ll also have a plan as if he’s not going to.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,