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Lions WR Johnson close to 2,000 yards receiving


Lions WR Johnson close to 2,000 yards receiving

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The smile has rarely left Calvin Johnson's face since he broke Jerry Rice's NFL record for receiving yards in a single season against Atlanta on Dec. 22.

Don't let Johnson's smile fool you. Underneath that cheery expression, there's a fierce competitor who wants to make Rice's accomplishments a distant second to his own effort this year.

Johnson's record-setting night against the Falcons put him at 1,892 yards for the season, just 108 yards shy of the 2,000 receiving yard plateau. The Lions wide receiver doesn't normally focus on his own achievements but he admitted Thursday that he wanted to reach the milestone to ensure that no one challenged his record for a very long time.

It ``would be big -- kind of almost put that (record) away for a while,'' he said. ``All records are meant to be broken, but it would take a long time for somebody to come and get that. You never know. It could happen next year, but it would be a tough (record to break).''

Getting the yards he needs to break the 2,000-yard mark won't be easy won't be easy for Johnson against a Bears team that held him to a season-low three catches for 34 yards on 11 targets when Chicago beat Detroit 13-7 on Oct. 22.

Asked why Chicago was able to limit his effectiveness, Johnson credited Bears' defensive coordinator - and Johnson's former head coach in Detroit - Rod Marinelli for designing pass coverage schemes that aren't easy for him to anticipate.

``(Chicago does) a great job with their safeties and bringing them down really late (to challenge receivers),'' he said. ``From film, we've seen games they haven't done it as much, but for some reason when we see them, they do a lot of disguising (coverages), which makes it harder (to get open).''

It's also worth noting that Chicago will be able to devote more attention to stopping Johnson than they did in the teams' first meeting of the season because of season-ending injuries to receivers Nate Burleson, Titus Young, and Ryan Broyles.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz admits that his current receiving corps has forced him to rely heavily on Johnson's production, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says he will have to find creative ways to create space for quarterback Matthew Stafford to get Johnson the ball.

``We're obviously going to have to put (Johnson) in different positions (on the field),'' Linehan said. ``There's going to be even more attention on him with our receiving depth the way it is. Guys have got to be good around him. But I think he'll still have a productive game the way he's locked in.''

Johnson isn't alone in his desire to break the 2,000-yard mark before the season ends. Several of his teammates say they want him to reach the milestone so that he receives the attention they say he has earned by choosing to support the team rather than focus on personal goals.

``He deserves (the recognition),'' WR Kris Durham said. ``He's a true professional, he's a team guy, and I can't say enough about him. When you've have an accomplishment like he had, it's very easy to congratulate him and make (the focus) about him.''

Johnson stopped short of predicting that he would reach the milestone Thursday, but that didn't stop teammate Rob Sims from echoing the sentiments of several people in the Lions' locker room who believe Johnson will reach the 2,000-yard mark.

``(Breaking the 2,000-yard mark) is going to be kind of easy for him,'' Sims said. ``As good as he is, I think it's almost a shoe-in.''

John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up  [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 21, 36 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one, starting today with the offense.

QB Alex Smith—The deal is done, and the Redskins have their man for five years at $22.2 million per year or, if they prefer, three years at $23.7 million per. It seems like most fans are behind him but there will have to be a few more wins than losses this fall for that to become permanent.

RB Samaje Perine—He got better as the year went on, averaging nearly a half yard per carry more in the last seven games compared to the first nine. But the 3.4 average per carry certainly did not stop both Doug Williams and Jay Gruden from talking about drafting a running back early.

TE Jordan Reed—According to reports, he is rehabbing well from the hamstring and toe injuries that severely limited him last year. Still, expect him to be kept in bubble wrap until training camp and even then, his action may be limited.

WR Josh Doctson—Did Kirk Cousins look away from Doctson too often, lacking the confidence in him to let him go get the 50-50 balls? Will Smith have more confidence in Doctson? The answers to those questions may determine if the third-year receiver breaks out in 2018 or he continues to tease with flashes of ability.

WR Paul Richardson—He’s capable of the acrobatic catch, which should be fun to watch. Richardson was good with Russell Wilson on the off-schedule plays, maybe he can do the same with Smith.

WR Jamison Crowder—I guess it’s fair to say he had an off year in 2017 but his receiving yardage only dropped by 60 yards from 2016. It will be interesting to see if they keep him in as the punt returner after he averaged 6.3 yards per return (23rd of 25 qualifiers) last year.

LT Trent Williams—The six-time Pro Bowler is still in the relatively early stages of recovering from surgery to the knee that kept him from practicing from about Week 6 on. Don’t look for him until training camp and even then, the early workload is likely to be light.

LG Arie Kouandjio—This is the one offensive position that remains up in the air. Kouandjio has shown some grit as a spot starter but I don’t think the organization views him as a 16-game starter.

C Chase Roullier—Shortly after Roullier got the starting job when Spencer Long went out injured, Jay Gruden said that Roullier would be the Redskins’ center “for a long time”. There is no reason to doubt that at this point in time.

RG Brandon Scherff—His concern no longer is trying to live up to having been the fifth pick of the draft. Scherff has to play well enough to justify his 2019 option-year salary, which will be in the vicinity of $13 million.

RT Morgan Moses—He had surgery to repair his ankles, which were an issue most of last season. Still, he didn’t miss a start. Like Williams, even if he’s ready for training camp, don’t expect to see a whole lot of him.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 27
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 129
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 173

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