DETROIT - The St. Louis Rams had plenty to say about facing the Lions in the season opener, especially about decorated wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
"I think it's the competition. Everybody wants competition. That's why you play at the highest level as we do. He's [Calvin Johnson] a great, great model for the NFL and receiver in the NFL - future Hall of Famer," Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan said.
Finnegan, signed by St. Louis in the offseason, brings the only veteran presence to mainly rookie-filled secondary. The young defensive backfield is something Johnson said he welcomes.
"You've got your hands full with him always and you just try to contain him - it's not stopping him. You just can't do it, you've seen that all last year. They're a playoff team."
Jeff Fisher, focusing on Johnson's outside presence, said the All-Pro wideout will be a key to the defensive gameplan. No kidding.
"He's just a big target and he's explosive and Matt does a great job giving him a chance to make plays," Fisher said.
"Matt will throw the ball to him, unlike most other quarterbacks in this league. He's almost Brett Favre-like, you know, four or five times a game, he just tips his shoulders down, throws the ball up as far as he can and Calvin usually makes a play so that's a challenge."
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When asked about the toughest part of Johnson's game to prepare for, Finnegan provided an answer most cornerbacks in the NFL have discovered to be true.
"Everything. They have so many weapons around him. He's a future Hall of Famer. There's not a lot he can't do, if anything, and [Matthew] Stafford's such an elite quarterback in the NFL, so as an offense they are one of the best."
Rams defensive pressure looks to disrupt Stafford
In the trenches, St. Louis' Chris Long recently agreed to a contract extension after a productive season upfront. The continually improving defensive end is aware of Kevin Smith and the Lions banged-up backfield, but it's the passing game he's most concerned with.
"Matt and Calvin, they're two guys that kind of run that show and they're two of the best at it," Long said. "Calvin's probably, no disrespect to anyone else, the best receiver in the game.
Continuity is in Detroit's favor, with all five offensive lineman back on the frontline together.
"They're O-Line has been together, one of the few o-lines returning as a whole in the entire league, so it's gonna be tough but the onus is on us to get there."
The Apprentice: You're Hired
Fisher shed light, too, on his relationship with his former apprentice, Jim Schwartz.
"He came in as a defensive quality control assistant and it was apparent that he was qualified to move into a full-time position," said Fisher. "He excelled there and then coordinated and did a great job and I knew for a long time, for a number of years that it was just a matter of time that he got an opportunity at the right place."
Stafford and Bradford: A Comparison
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is heading into his third season as the main quarterback in St. Louis. Shaking off high expectations, taking a young team to the playoffs in his first season, and shedding injuries left and right -- it's been a busy start to Bradford's career. The comparison has been made to a similar quarterback: Matthew Stafford, and his offense's progression in year three.
"Yeah, they're good," Bradford said.
"They're extremely talented up front. They're gonna put pressure on me. They're gonna push the pocket. It just means that I've got to be aware, sliding around, trying to make some plays with my feet. When we do have time to take some shots down the field we've got to take advantage of them and hit 'em."
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