Trumaine Johnson shuts down Megatron following week of study, prep work

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When last we saw St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson in a game, a thigh injury stopped him before he could finish a potential interception return for a touchdown.

That was against Baltimore on Nov. 22. In Sunday's 21-14 win against the Detroit Lions, Johnson sent a clear message that he's healthy by not only coming up with an interception but taking it 58 yards to the end zone for the game's first touchdown.

“It was 0-0 at that point," Johnson said. "I know we had to make a play. I’m glad I made it. Read the play the whole time. I knew they were running it. Film study. Big time. I’m just glad to make a play.”

And the Rams were just glad to have Johnson back in the lineup. With fellow starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins still recovering from a concussion, Johnson's return came not a moment too soon. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams didn't exactly ease Johnson back into the lineup, either.

Instead of slowly working Johnson back, Williams asked him to cover Detroit's superstar receiver Calvin Johnson. Trumaine Johnson followed Calvin Johnson all over the field, shadowing him for most of the game.

“It was Johnson versus Johnson the whole week," Trumaine Johnson said. "Even in practice I was going with 81 the whole practice. I knew it was going to be a tough matchup, but I feel like I can match up with anybody with my big frame. Especially with him.”

As it turned out, Johnson was right. The man known as "Megatron" finished with just one catch for 16 yards with that lone reception coming late in the game and someone other than Johnson lined up against him. That's not to say the Rams didn't offer help against Calvin Johnson, they certainly did but in many instances, it was battle of Johnson versus Johnson.

“He was a little iffy," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He was limited in practice on Wednesday, coming off the quad. We weren’t quite sure, but then by Friday, we felt like he was going to be able to go, and he did. I talked to him last Saturday night about coming back and taking that challenge on with Calvin this week because he was inactive last week. I thought he did a nice job. We did some coverage adjustments at times, which everybody does, no matter when you face Calvin. I thought Trumaine played a really good game. That was a great interception, almost two."

That interception put the Rams on the board after a nearly scoreless first half. After meticulously studying Calvin Johnson all week, Trumaine Johnson said he instantly recognized the play as a "Bang 8 Route," which was just supposed to be Calvin Johnson running a skinny post across his face. But the defensive Johnson recognized the play quickly and didn't let Calvin Johnson get inside his leverage. He squatted on the route and jumped it as soon as Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw it.

“I saw it all week," Trumaine Johnson said. "He was running it on teams and getting open. Just sitting inside the whole time. I was able to make a play.”

Johnson later dropped what looked like another sure interception though that can be forgiven considering his overall performance on the day. Johnson's interception was his fifth of the season, making him the first Rams defensive player to have that many since safety Oshiomogho Atogwe did it in 2008. Likewise, Johnson's five picks leave him tied for third in the NFL with five other players, trailing only Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson (eight) and Carolina safety Kurt Coleman (seven) in that category.

All of that in a year in which Johnson's contract, like that of Jenkins, will expire after the season. With fellow corner E.J. Gaines coming off injury, it seems unlikely the Rams will be unable to afford both Jenkins and Johnson and still have the money to sign other free agents and improve the offense but Johnson will at least give the Rams a tough decision to make when the time comes.

While Jenkins has said he's not going to consider signing a new deal during the season, Johnson said he's not really thinking about what comes next.

“[I'm] just stepping up and being consistent," Johnson said. "This is my fourth year now. I love my teammates. The chemistry is there on the defense. I’ve been playing with those guys for three, four years. I’m not too worried about that [contract]. I’ll worry about that after the season.”