The most talented NFC North player the Green Bay Packers will have to match up with all season is probably Detroit Lions' wideout Calvin Johnson. The Lions drafted Johnson No. 2 overall out of Georgia Tech in the 2007 draft and five years later his incredible size (6'5", 236 pounds) and accomplishments have him widely considered to be the best wide receiver in football.
His monster season last year makes it especially hard not to put him at No.1. He was fourth in the NFL with 96 receptions, first with 1,681 receiving yards and second with 16 touchdown catches. All this led to Johnson being moved up from No. 27 in 2011 to No. 3 on NFL Network's top 100 NFL players of 2012, behind only quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
What the Packers have to offer in terms of stopping the athletic machine that is "Megatron" is a very good cornerback in Tramon Williams, who like Johnson is entering his sixth year in the league.
This matchup may have mismatch written all over it, (Williams is 5'11", 182 pounds and has a recorded 40 time of 4.59 compared to Johnson's 4.35) but don't forget that Williams was one of the most valuable Packers during their Super Bowl run of 2010. He has the ability to be the best player on Green Bay's defense at any given moment and should be able to make a battle of his matchup with Johnson, a player whom he has more than a year of experience working against.
Last season, Johnson was mainly Tramon's responsibility and on Thanksgiving Day, No. 38 showed why he is perfectly capable of dealing with "Megatron." In that game, as Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette describes, Williams did an all-around amazing job on Johnson and was only really responsible for five of the superstar's 49 yards.
Five weeks later, Johnson had an absolute field day versus the Packer secondary with 11 receptions for 244 yards and one touchdown. As I've mentioned before on this countdown, that was sort of a throwaway game for the then 14-1 Packers. Neither Clay Matthews or Charles Woodson played in that game. But there was a good amount of Williams covering Johnson, and Johnson had his way. This just demonstrates that, even though the game was meaningless, Tramon needs to bring his A-game every time he lines up across from Johnson this season or else a ridiculous stat line could happen again.
Tramon and Johnson also went up against each other a fair amount as rookies in 2007. On November 22 of that year, Johnson had a nice first game against the Pack with 7 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Woodson left that game in the first quarter due to a toe injury suffered on special teams. Meanwhile, Al Harris was busy covering Roy Williams. Tramon and Jarrett Bush split duties on Johnson and Tramon defended two passes intended for the Lion rookie.
Tramon saw some more action against Johnson on December 30, 2007, when Woodson didn't even play at all. In 2008 and 2009 Calvin Johnson duties shifted more towards Woodson, but they have shifted back to Tramon the past two years. Probably the best indication of what the present day Williams/Johnson matchup will look like was last Thanksgiving, and that's good news for Packer fans.
As for the speed issue, there are always gonna be guys who run better in games than their 40 times indicate they should. Tramon gets by just fine and should continue to do so at age 29.
Meanwhile, at age 26, soon to be 27, Calvin Johnson is in his prime, which is a scary thought. Athletically there isn't much he can't do; he may very well be the best athlete in the NFL. But can he lead his team to the promised land? Last year was his first winning season in the NFL and he is 1-8 in his career against the Packers, which is of course the most important stat of all.
Tramon has had the upper hand when it comes to winning in this matchup and also knows what it's like to be instrumental in leading a team to a Super Bowl championship. In my opinion, that gives him a little x-factor over Johnson.
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