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Asomugha vs. Johnson

Two of the NFL’s most understated superstars square off Sunday when Nnamdi Asomugha attempts to lock down Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson caught just two passes for 19 yards in last season’s 27-16 win in Oakland, although coach Tom Cable noted weather conditions (wet and sloppy) had a lot to do with it.

Johnson didn’t catch a pass until Asomugha left the game due to injury. Johnson was available to Bay Area reporters Wednesday by conference call, and Asomugha talked with Texans beat writers. Some observations from each player on playing the other:

Johnson: “He’s a great player, probably the best cornerback in the league. I didn’t really get many opportunities in that game. He’s a tough person to go against.”

Asomugha: “You’re talking about one of if not the top receiver in the league. Any time you get a guy with his size and his strength and his speed, you’re going to have some matchup problems, and there’s a lot of ways that he can hurt you whether it’s running the ball, whether it’s deep, whether it’s short. He’s got all the intangibles. So he always presents a problem for any corner around the league.”

Johnson: “Most of the time they’re in man-to-man, and they do a good job of mixing it up. They’ll make it look like man, and it’s really not man. They do a lot of man coverage, though, and it’s just something you have to go out and beat. Against a guy like Nnamdi, it’s a big challenge.”

Asomugha:“ Whether I’ve had success on him or not, he’s still been a challenge. He’s been one of my greatest challenges that I face each week. Each year, it’s one of those things where you look at the schedule and you see who the top guys are that you’re going to face, and you see Houston on the schedule, you know you’re going to have a battle any time you’re going to have to play against that type of a receiver. So I don’t know; I just play my game and try my best and see how successful how I can be. But he’s a great player.”

Johnson: “I think it depends on the defensive call. Sometimes he’s on me, sometimes he’s not. It really depends on their defense.”

Asomugha: “I think every year that we play him, there’s a plan together where I’ll be on him the majority of the time. Not all the time, but there’ll be a lot of situations where he goes to the left or the right or wherever he goes where I’ll end up on him. But it won’t be every single snap. Just as far as game plans in the past, it’s never been every snap, but we’ve always had some sort of plan together.”

Johnson: ``He doesn’t talk at all (on the field). He’s a cool guy. I asked him for a loan when he signed his new contract, asked him if he could loan me a million dollars. I love going against him because when go up against a guy of that caliber it’s always a challenge and you get a chance to see where your game’s at.”

Asomugha: “I’m sure we’ll talk more after the game as opposed to before the game, but yeah, definitely. I’ve known the type of talent he was since high school. I’ve met him since college and in the Pro Bowl and all that stuff. We have each other’s number. We talk in the offseason every now and then. He’s a really good guy.”

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer