'Dre vs. Asomugha worth watching

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Wide receiver Andre Johnson and Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are two of the best at their craft in the NFL.

Coaches and players often say football is a team sport, not about individual players but 11 guys playing together as one.

Still, it's going to be hard not to focus on a couple of individuals on Sunday when the Texans and Raiders play at Reliant Stadium.

Texans receiver Andre Johnson versus Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is about as marquee as marquee matchups get.

"He's the best (corner) I've seen in a while throughout this league," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Asomugha. "He's big, he's fast, they put him out there on an island the whole game. He's an exceptional player, and we've got a pretty good wideout, too, so it'll be a pretty good battle between the two of them."

Both Johnson (6-3, 245) and Asomugha (6-2, 210) played in the Pro Bowl and were named first-team All-Pro after last season.

Johnson led the league with 1,575 yards in 2008. Asomugha rarely was targeted by the opposition, which has been the case since he intercepted eight passes in 2006.

"He's very technique-sound," Johnson said. "When you watch him on film, he's always trying to stay on your upfield shoulder. He just seems to be in the right spot at the right time.

"The thing about him is he's a big cornerback. He's about the same size as me, and that's very rare to have a guy that size playing corner. He's a great player."

The Texans have faced Asomugha and the Raiders three times since 2004. In those games, not once has a Houston wide receiver gained more than 65 yards.

"He's the best corner in the league right now," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "He's the real deal. He's the guy that has been great for them. He's a leader and follows guys around. He's a shutdown corner."

{QUOTE}On Wednesday, Raiders coach Tom Cable said Asomugha won't cover Johnson for the entire game. But Asomugha doesn't expect to stay locked in on a particular side of the field against the Texans.

"Every year that we play him, there's a plan together where I'll be on him the majority of the time," Asomugha said. "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. It won't be every single snap; it's never been every snap. But we've always had some sort of plan together."

Johnson had 115 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Raiders in 2004, but Asomugha was playing strong safety back then.

In two games against the Raiders since, Johnson has been limited to three catches for 28 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown.

"Whether I've had success on him or not, he's still been a challenge," Asomugha said. "He's been one of my greatest challenges that I've faced.

"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."

Johnson and Asomugha are friends off the field. The two exchanged phone numbers after the 2009 Pro Bowl, and Johnson said he asked Asomugha if he could borrow a million dollars this summer after the Raiders corner signed a hefty new contract.

The two players have similar on-field personas, preferring quiet big plays to trash talk. Both said on Wednesday that they regard their upcoming counterpart as among the best at his position in the league.

Johnson knows he has a big test ahead of him on Sunday, and he's looking forward to the challenge.

"When you go against a guy like that, you always want to do well because of the caliber of player that he is," he said. "He wants to win every play, I want to win every play, and I think that's what makes us both better.

"Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. You just hope you win more plays than he does."

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