Last season, Steve Johnson became the first players in Bills’ history to post back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons and he did it largely hobbled with a nagging groin injury.
He may have to do it again.
Though it was listed as a “rest day” for Johnson during Wednesday’s practice, a fall out of bounds during individual work early in the day soon changed the receiver’s status to “limited” for the remainder and kept him out of team drills later on.
Johnson, who said recently that he thought his groin was at about “90%” coming into the first game, is one of just five wide receivers currently on the active roster for Buffalo (Ruvell Martin was brought back to replace the injured Ron Brooks on special teams). Seeing as how Donald Jones is still unproven and we haven’t had time to see what TJ Graham is capable of yet, the fact that the Bills' clear cut number one option might not be entirely rid of his groin issues is… well, troubling.
In addition, Johnson is one of the few receivers in the league that has displayed a strong tendency to out-play Jets’ super-corner Darrelle Revis, who ranked 2nd in the league last year defending receivers, with a catch rating of 41.2%.
However, in his two games against the Bills when he was defending Johnson, Revis gave up 84 yards on three catches the first game, then allowed eight catches for 75 yards and a TD in the second (the same one in which Stevie had two potential game winning drops, largely his own fault rather than Revis’). Both games ended up being losses for Buffalo (they were in free fall by that point in 2011), but Johnson seemed to have Revis’ number and the match up has been the subject of much of the pre-game media hype-talk.
Granted, Stevie was also nursing the same injury against Revis in both games last seasons, but after hearing all spring and summer about how Johnson was healing and would be ready to go come the regular season, you’ve got to raise an eyebrow when he’s suddenly listed as “limited” in Wednesday’s practice.
To make things worse, there was no post-practice press conference by Chan Gailey, as he spoke to the media around noon Wednesday and won’t be getting in front of the microphones again until after practice Thursday, so many fans and fantasy owners will be left clueless for now as to Johnson’s status for Sunday’s opener.
It definitely dampens the joy of hearing that Buffalo was only fielding one injured player heading into the game against their division rivals, as Brad Smith is still nursing a… groin injury, though he did participate in a “limited” capacity Wednesday (Erik Pears, however, was practicing again after nursing a, you guessed it, groin injury for most of the preseason).
Though Johnson finished individual drills Wednesday, he was visibly uncomfortable after his tumble and was ginger when walking around, not quite limping, but definitely not right (though he did finish his drills before being labeled “limited”).
Not a cause to throw the whole season away in Buffalo, but still not the news that those in the Queen City wanted to hear heading into game one of a season when they’re seriously being mentioned as a Wild Card possibility after not even sniffing the playoffs since 1999.
Don’t panic, Bills fans, but don’t expect it to be a cakewalk all the way to the playoffs, either.