On Sunday the Philadelphia Eagles limited Larry Fitzgerald, at least by Larry Fitzgerald standards. Their reward for their efforts? A showdown with the Detroit Lions and All-World receiver Calvin Johnson this week.
Fitzgerald, who is on pace to post close to career-best numbers this season has already accounted for 678 yards and nine touchdowns on 55 receptions this season, was held to just five catches for 72 yards and a score in the Eagles 24-21 win over the Cardinals Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 30-year old represented the biggest test the Eagles secondary faced to date this season.
Notice the past-tense?
After largely neutralizing the 6'3, 218 pound Fitzgerald Sunday, Johnson, who stands at 6'5, 236 pounds awaits the secondary that is still missing rookie safety Earl Wolff.
Eagles defenders were abuzz Tuesday about what it may take to slow the receiver aptly nicknamed Megatron.
This season Johnson has tallied 1,299 yards and 12 touchdowns on 72 receptions from quarterback Matthew Stafford who is coming into his own this season.
“He’s 6-5 and he’s got a huge vertical,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Tuesday. “So his catch radius is second to none. … Fitzgerald is one of the tops in the NFL, but Calvin is the best. When you watch him game in and game out, what he does and what he can do with that size and speed ratio, he’s the best.”
Johnson has the Lions (7-5) atop the NFC North and eyeing another playoff berth. Just as last Sunday's showdown with the Cardinals had lofty playoff implications, the Eagles need this victory to not only keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East division race but also pad their tiebreakers in the event they are in the hunt for a wild card berth.
"He's another challenge," safety Nate Allen admitted about Johnson Tuesday. "He's 6'5, they call him Megatron for a reason. He's got a 50-inch vertical, he's strong, big, fast and he has all the tools. He's an elite guy."
With that in mind, all facets of the Eagles defense will likely need to bring their 'A-game' against Johnson and company, and even if it takes being physical against one of the more physical receivers in the league, Davis will ask his players to do whatever it takes.
“It’s very obvious right now with all the games that have been played, no matter if you’re watching our games or anybody else on TV that both the offensive players and the defensive players are allowed to have a little bit more contact,” Davis explained. “As long as you don’t knock them off their route and they don’t knock us off ours. It’s just what they’re doing.”
Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.