Each Wednesday, Weston Hodkiewicz provides an inside look at the Green Bay Packers in his Walkthrough blog.
If 2015 truly was it for Calvin Johnson, there’s probably no one happier about it than the Green Bay Packers and the rest of the NFC North.
The five-time all-pro receiver reportedly informed Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell after the season that he planned to retire after nine NFL seasons. Johnson has been a headache for the Packers since the Lions drafted him second overall out of Georgia Tech in 2007.
Johnson, the fastest receiver to 10,000 yards in NFL history, has caught 90 passes for 1,409 yards and 15 touchdowns against Green Bay in 16 games. The Packers survived to win 12 of those games, but still conceded about a tenth of his career totals.
The 6-foot-5, 237-pound receiver ran roughshod over Green Bay’s secondary from 2011-2013 with four consecutive 100-yard games, including an 11-catch, 244-yard performance against the Packers in the 2011 regular-season finale.
With the maturation of top cornerback Sam Shields, the Packers had more success against Johnson the past two years, with Megatron racking up only 19 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns in their last four meetings.
There was some question this season about whether injuries and age were starting to catch up to Johnson during a slow start (322 yards and one touchdown in his first five games). Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt didn’t buy it.
Predictably, Johnson finished the year with 88 catches, 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Watch every game and you’ll see a corner and a safety over the top probably 40 percent of the time. He gets more double coverage than anybody else,” Whitt said earlier this season. “Single him up and see what happens. Single him up all game. Other guys will go up against an elite receiver and single him up and they can handle him. Go single Calvin up all game and see what happens to you.
“The respect factor that other defenses are showing him that have elite corners, they’re still not putting those guys out there against him all game. I have so much for him. He’s the reason why I have so much gray now.”
Johnson’s reign of terror in the division – he put up nearly 1,500 yards against Chicago in 17 games and 1,095 yards against Minnesota in 15 encounters – rivals the damage former Lions running back Barry Sanders caused in the NFC Central in the 1990s before his own early retirement in 1998 at age 30.
The Lions continue to hold out hope Johnson will return for a 10th season and reiterated in the wake of the ESPN report that they’re giving him a chance to make a formal decision. Meanwhile, you can be sure the Packers are paying close attention.
“Calvin Johnson is still one of the elite guys in the league,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said in November. “The catch radius of Calvin Johnson down around the red area, you have to stand beside him down on the field to respect how big the guy is.”
A few more things…
--If the NFL ever gets tired of masquerading the Pro Bowl as a competitive football game, maybe it could give professional wrestling a try for the annual all-star event.
One of the highlights of Sunday’s game was Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman dropping an RKO on the Packers linebacker Clay Matthews midway through the game, which Sherman’s Team Irwin won over Matthews’ Team Rice 49-27.
If you’re not familiar with pro wrestling, the RKO is the signature maneuver of 12-time WWE champion Randy Orton. The move gained a lot of popularity in viral videos over the past years before Sherman jokingly tried his own.
It’s not the first time Matthews has been involved with professional wrestling. Five years ago, the Packers linebacker helped Edge retain the World Heavyweight Title over Dolph Ziggler.
--Not every player on the Packers’ roster leaves town after the season ends.
Rookie receiver Ty Montgomery, who’s recovering after ankle surgery last month, stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few DVDs to help ride out Tuesday’s snowstorm.