Defense to keep tabs on Texans' Johnson

Cary Williams' potential matchup with five-time Pro Bowl choice could be intriguing

January 13, 2012|By Edward Lee

When the Ravens defeated the Houston Texans, 29-14, on Oct. 16, Houston was forced to play without wide receiver Andre Johnson, who missed the game because of a strained hamstring.

Ed Reed is aware that the defense dodged a bullet with Johnson’s absence.

“Different ballgame with Andre playing,” the eight-time Pro Bowl free safety said of Sunday’s rematch in the AFC divisional round at M&T Bank Stadium. “Me and Andre played in school [at the University of Miami] together, and we won a national championship together. So I know his capabilities. I know what Dre is capable of doing down on the field and even when you get the ball in his hands. So you’ve got to know where he’s at at all times. But it’s not just Dre, and Dre would say the same thing. They’re a full team over there.”

Johnson, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, endured the worst season of his nine-year career, finishing the regular season with 33 receptions for 492 yards and two touchdowns as the hamstring injury shelved him for nine contests.

But in the Texans’ 31-10 thumping of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC wild-card round last Saturday, Johnson made five grabs for 90 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter. In a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday, Johnson said that while he doesn’t anticipate his hamstring being an issue Sunday, he’s still working on regaining his power and speed.

“At times, I don’t feel like I’m explosive as I was before I had the surgery and everything,” said Johnson, who caught nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a Dec. 13, 2010 overtime loss to the Ravens. “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.”

The Ravens’ most optimal matchup against the 6-foot-3, 226-pound Johnson could be 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback Cary Williams, who has the strength to jam larger receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Williams said he won’t stray from his physical nature simply because of Johnson.

“I’ve jammed Larry Fitzgerald, Kenny Britt. I’ve dealt with big receivers, and you win some and you lose some,” Williams said. “This is one of those things where I’m not going to change my game. I want to get down and get my hands on him -- regardless of what number he has on his back, whatever name he has. I’m still going to play my game. I can’t allow a name to scare me out of who I am and what I do.”

Williams, who was briefly benched in the team’s 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 18, ranked second on the defense in pass breakups (18) and third in tackles (77) in the regular season. He said he is looking forward to testing himself against a player of Johnson’s caliber.

“I just look at it as a challenge,” Williams said. “It’s an opportunity for me to go out there and make plays. It’s an opportunity for me to go out there and gain some respect of my teammates. They believe in me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in the game and I wouldn’t be in this position. So I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself. I’m very confident, and I understand what I do best.”

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