Few would disagree if I said Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald were two of the NFL’s best receivers. After all, Megatron just set the NFL record for most yards in a season last year with 1,964. And Fitzgerald is no slouch himself, although his quarterbacks have been ever since the departure of Kurt Warner.
The recent numbers certainly favor Johnson: he’s piled up 3,645 yards, 218 catches, and 21 touchdowns in the last two years.
Fitzgerald has still done admirably despite being thrown the ball by John Skelton and other guys who can’t win their girlfriends a teddy bear at the carnival football toss. His stat line since 2011 (not counting this year) is quite respectable: 2,209 yards on 151 receptions, including 12 scores.
Certainly, those stats are laughable when compared to Calvin’s, but show me someone’s stats who can somewhat compare to Megatron and I’ll buy you dinner.
Go ahead and look around- there’s not even a receiver in the pass-happy CFL that can touch Johnson.
The difference now is that Fitz has found himself a quarterback better than Matt Leinart or Ryan Lindley. Carson Palmer now stands under center for the Arizona Cardinals, and while he may not be the explosive talent that Matthew Stafford is, he’s a grizzly veteran who can make all the throws and win games.
What will Palmer’s effect be in Arizona? Will Fitzgerald have a career year?
Palmer can only help Fitz, and while it would be tough for Larry to top the 1,400-yard, 12-touchdown performance he had in 2008, it’s certainly doable. In fact, he’s on pace for a cool 1,280 yards and 32 touchdowns after his gem of a debut with Palmer as his signal caller.
Ok, so Fitzgerald won’t score 32 times this year, but my point is that he’s going to see a lot of looks in the red zone, and they might be thrown on target this time around.
Meanwhile, Johnson will certainly see his fair share of the ball, and now has a healthy supporting cast with Nate Burleson back and Ryan Broyles eyeing his return to the field soon.
Will these guys draw more coverage away from Calvin? Or will they simply eat into targets that would otherwise go to the 7th-year man from Georgia Tech?
I think both will be true: Johnson caught 122 balls last year because Detroit was out of other options. By the end of the year, Kris Durham was the Lions’ number two option.
Not a good sign.
This year, the receiving corps is healthier, and Patrick Edwards has also come on to the scene as a speed demon who needs a couple shots a game to turn in a big play.
Now, with all of that said, Johnson will still be featured in this offense, as he should be. The man is a 6-foot-5 freak of nature who really is never covered. There is always somewhere Stafford can throw the ball where Calvin, and only Calvin, can get it.
Will Johnson’s numbers decline from a year ago? The yards probably will, but I think the touchdowns will increase if anything. While Detroit’s offense is much better this year with the addition of Reggie Bush as well as a healthy Burleson, Johnson is still a man among boys and he’ll be seeing a lot of the ball.
But is Fitz any different? Is there a man that we could line up across from him that would get the best of him more than half the time?
With Carson Palmer at the helm, I’m not sure there’s anyone that could take on that task.
Both of these guys will see each other every year at Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, that’s a given. But who will be the greatest of this era is still up for grabs. It’s too close to call at this point, but the NFL single-season receiving record certainly says something about Megatron.
I wonder what Andre Johnson would say?
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