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Calvin Johnson on possible decline: I'm the 'same guy'

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Calvin Johnson hasn't been himself this season. Is it fair to wonder if we're seeing the start of a decline for the great wide receiver?

The 29-year-old Detroit Lions star is on pace to finish with his lowest level of production since his rookie season. Johnson was widely considered the game's top wideout at the start of 2014, but a second consecutive season of injury woes -- combined with a marked decline in "wow" plays -- creates the possibility we've already seen the best of Megatron.

Predictably, Johnson said there's no difference between the Megatron of 2014 and the Megatron who set the single-season receiving yards record two years ago.

"Same guy," Johnson said Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Johnson -- who missed three games and parts of two others with a high ankle sprain -- ranks outside the top 40 in both receptions (38) and yards (578) this season. His steep decline in production is a major reason why Detroit's offense has become the team's surprising Achilles' heel.

"I think that the biggest thing you can kind of just take a look at is -- does he still run by people?" Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "The answer to that would be yes. Is he still able to lay out, catch the ball and do things that he normally does? Yes. And I think that that's what matters."

Johnson's teammates are convinced Megatron remains the best in the business, even in the midst of a season in which Johnson hasn't been the best receiver on his own team (that title belongs to Golden Tate).

"Calvin Johnson is still the best receiver in the league in my eyes and a lot of people's eyes, not just on this team," said tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

"I think defenses obviously are keying in on him," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "He's the best receiver in the league and they know that, but it's on me to just throw him better balls and make sure we're on the same page."

Johnson has admitted his ankle still isn't 100 percent, and the Lions have faced some of the NFL's top defenses in the weeks after Johnson's return to the lineup. Still, there was a time when Johnson was an uncoverable entity. You can't say that right now.

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