This week the Raiders have a special guest in house. It’s Calvin Johnson aka ‘Megatron’. He was there as a guest of offensive coordinator Todd Downing who knows Johnson from their time together in Detroit while Downing was on the Lions’ offensive staff from 2009-13, the final three seasons of which were All Pro nods for Johnson.
The 31-year-old retired somewhat unexpectedly after the 2015 season – his sixth-straight Pro Bowl season --, so it’s likely he could still suit up right now and play at a high level. But alas, he was just here as a guest.
Jack Del Rio joked “A couple of the coaches were asking ‘Is he, uh…?’ I said ‘No, he’s here as a guest. Not here to play.’”
Johnson didn’t just stand on the side and watch, though. He had a few very eager pupils looking to glean something from the NFL great’s dominant 9-year career as Donald Penn noted.
“I saw him over there talking with Coop, Crabtree and some of the young guys,” said Penn. “and you know Megatron, he’s one of the best that did it so having him out there . . . giving them advice is great.”
With Amari Cooper entering his third season, he’s looking to get any edge he can to take his already impressive first two Pro Bowl seasons to another level.
“He just gave me some really good tips on how I can run some of my routes,” said Cooper.
Route running has long been considered one of the strongest part of Coop’s game. But he and Johnson would run very different types of routes, so there’s plenty that can be learned even for Cooper.
“He’s huge,” Cooper said of Johnson. “I can definitely see why they call him Megatron.
“I think he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously, but I really admire the way he high-points the ball. And that’s something that I try to do as well.”
The Raiders have seen firsthand what Johnson’s tutelage can do for one of their receivers. Two years ago, former 7th round pick Brice Butler trained with Johnson in the 2014 offseason and it showed in Butler’s training camp and preseason performance. Ultimately Butler was traded to the Cowboys for a late round pick, appearing in 23 games with five starts over two seasons in Dallas.
Last season Cooper was having some difficulty keeping his feet inbounds on sideline passes so he focused on it and within a couple weeks, he had mastered the art of the toe drag. The ability to soak up instruction is part of what makes Cooper such a talented receiver. I have little doubt he will be able to learn and implement the things he learns from Johnson this week.