Johnson Presents Big Matchup Problems

The Ravens will have to find a way to stop talented Texans receiver Andre Johnson.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Thursday, January 12th, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Categories: Garrett Downing

The Baltimore Ravens know how dangerous Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is.

In his last game against the Ravens in 2010, Johnson had 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

A hamstring injury forced him to sit out against Baltimore in Week 6 this season, but he has worked his way back into the lineup and is coming off one of his best performances of the season.

“He brings some stability to our group, and he is obviously somebody we need to be successful,” Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak told the Baltimore media this week.

Johnson caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Texans’ first-round win over Cincinnati last week, which was his first touchdown since Sept. 18.

Having him back on the field adds a dynamic piece to the Texans’ offense and he is a key part of the game plan for both teams this week.

“We have to have our eye on him, but he’s a guy that usually makes some plays whether you keep your eye on him or not,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He presents big matchup problems.”

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds Johnson is physically imposing and tough for most defensive backs to match up against.  He has been one of the league’s most productive receivers during his nine-year career, and Harbaugh said he may be the best receiver in the game.

Johnson has topped 1,000 receiving yards in five of his nine seasons, and finds his name in the NFL’s record books next to some of the game’s greats.

“He’s a complete wide receiver,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “He’s physical, strong, good route-runner, blocker, he’ll go get the ball. He’s a game-changer.”

There are several differences in this week’s game compared to when Johnson had success against Baltimore last season.

Chris Carr and Josh Wilson started at cornerback for the Ravens in that game and Johnson also had Matt Schaub throwing passes his way. Houston will have rookie quarterback T.J. Yates at quarterback this weekend, and the Ravens have Webb and Cary Williams starting at cornerback.

Plus, this season has been the most frustrating of Johnson’s professional career because of the hamstring injuries. He recorded career-lows in catches (33), yards (492) and touchdowns (2), and admitted that even now he doesn’t feel the same as in past years.

“At times, I don’t feel like I’m explosive as I was before I had the surgery and everything,” Johnson said on a conference call Wednesday. “I think as weeks go on, and the more I do, my explosiveness is starting to come back. I think that’s just going to come back with time.”

But even a hobbled Johnson is better than many receivers in the league.

“Andre is a big-time performer,” Williams said. “We know what he can do.”

Baltimore will likely have Webb and Williams handle the primary duties of covering Johnson. Webb put up Pro Bowl numbers and the secondary has been successful in limiting talented receivers. 

Only three players – Tennessee’s Kenny Britt, Cincinnati’s Jerome Simpson and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown – have topped 100-receiving yards against Baltimore.

The Ravens hope to keep Johnson off that list.

“He’s always going to be a problem,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a great player. He’s one of the premier receivers in the league. We’re just going to have to do a good job of playing our defense.”

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