Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions struggled mightily in their Week 5 loss to the Packers on Sunday. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — The extent of Calvin Johnson's knee injury remains unknown, but the Browns are preparing as if the Lions' star wideout will play Sunday in Cleveland.
"He's a difference-maker," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday on a conference call with Detroit media. "He's a great player, and he's the best at his position in the league. He's a guy to contend with and we're expecting him and planning on him being there. And we'll do everything we can to try and contend with him."
When it comes to contending with Johnson, the Browns are well-equipped in the secondary. Fourth-year cornerback Joe Haden is one of the most consistent players at his position, and safety T.J. Ward has been outstanding this season with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
"Looking forward to it a lot," Haden said of the matchup with Johnson on a conference call. "He's the best receiver in the league, and it's always good to go up against the best just to see where you are."
The Browns’ pass defense ranks seventh in the NFL, allowing 208 yards per game. The unit also has 18 sacks, tied for third-most in the league.
Without Johnson, the Lions struggled mightily in their Week 5 loss to the Packers. The offense gained just 286 yards, and running back Reggie Bush had just 44 yards on 13 carries.
Johnson said he was "real close" to playing in Week 5, but he missed practice Wednesday. Typically, Lions players have a much better chance at playing if they practice Wednesday or Thursday, so Johnson's status in Thursday's practice could be telling for the upcoming game.
The Packers’ defense sacked Matthew Stafford five times, and although the Browns play a similar 3-4 defense, Chudzinski said Green Bay's success wasn't necessarily related to scheme. Chudzinski also praised Stafford's start this season.
"I think that just looking at it overall (Stafford is) playing great football," he said. "He's distributing and getting the ball to a lot of different places and a lot of different guys, and there's a plethora of weapons for him to choose from and it's going to be a big challenge for us."
Of course, if Johnson can play, it'd be a lot more challenging for the Browns’ defense. While Haden wants to test himself against Johnson, he said the Browns are focused on winning regardless of who plays.
"He's a big part of their offense. And it's something that I look forward to playing against him, but if he's missing, we're still going to go about it," Haden said. "We want to get a ‘W.’ It's more about the team than me and Calvin with one-on-one matchups."