When you think of the most successful wide receiver the Buffalo Bills had in recent memory, Lee Evans comes to mind. But Stevie Johnson has enjoyed more success than Evans in half the amount of time Evans had with the Bills.
Johnson has posted consecutive 1,000+ seasons with the Bills, and he reached double-digit touchdowns (10) in 2010. In Evans' seven years with Buffalo, he never recorded double-digit touchdowns and never had back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons. In fact, in five out of his seven seasons, he failed to breach the 900 receiving yard mark.
Even with Johnson's career developing with such promise, he is looking to make it better. His focus is to improve the yards he gains after the catch, or YAC. Last season, Johnson ranked 40th among wide receivers in YAC with 4.5 yards.
There's an easy explanation: Johnson played the season with a groin injury. That injury affected his mentality when it came to having solid stats in the YAC column.
“With the groin it was more a thought of, ‘I know this guy is going to catch me.’ My level of confidence was basically low because I felt with a torn groin I had to do a lot of cutting back across the field instead of just trying to outrun somebody,” said Johnson.
Johnson had offseason surgery to repair his torn groin. Johnson will have a full training camp and preseason to test out his improved groin. And this year when he catches a pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, he'll be thinking touchdown instead of "get down."
“When I’d be out there I’d be thinking about making the catch and then get what I can and get down," said #13. "What the mentality should be is get the catch and try to take it all the way to the house. It was different with that injury.”
Last season's 4.5 YAC for Johnson was entirely disappointing. Now that his injury is fixed, Johnson has lofty goals.
“I want to be able double that,” said Johnson. “I want to up that number to show that I have a complete game. All those elite guys are getting those yards after catch. So anything up around 10 would be good. That’s another first down.”
There's little chance Johnson doubles that number, but he should be able to improve it significantly. And that improvement will have the Bills most likely battle the New York Jets for a Wild Card spot in the post-season.