His preseason derailed more than once by a pesky rib cartilage injury, Steve Johnson was glad he was able to finish his preparation for the regular season on a strong note against the Lions as he led the team in receiving yardage Thursday night with 69 yards and a receiving average of 23 yards per catch.
"It was good to be out there and not having to worry about my ribs," said Johnson.
Johnson hooked up with Bills reserve quarterback Gibran Hamdan a few times in the preseason finale as the two got extended playing time. Johnson actually got the start in the game, but didn't get rolling until Hamdan entered in the third quarter.
"Gibby is going out there trying to make plays just like all the rest of us," said Johnson. "Me and Justin are just out there trying to get a win. We know it's preseason, but we're still out there trying to get a win."
"Stevie did a very nice job getting open," said Hamdan. "When I threw the balls he was pretty open. I told Stevie on the first couple of drives, great catches for me. We were lucky enough to hook up on a couple of passes."
Their first hookup came on a 2nd-and-10 play at the Bills 31. Hamdan reared back and lofted a tight spiral down the right sideline leading Johnson who had a step on his defender and made a 27-yard reception bringing Buffalo into Lions territory.
Two plays later Hamdan again found Johnson for a 33-yard pass play down the left sideline to set up 1st-and-goal at the Detroit eight-yard line.
Hamdan tried twice to get the ball to Johnson as the offense took two shots at the end zone, but came up empty. The fade pass attempt was broken up and when Hamdan tried to throw it to Johnson's back shoulder it didn't arrive in time.
"In the goal line the guy was heavy leverage outside, we should have adjusted the route, but we kept going with the fade and the guy made a play," said Johnson. "We should have connected a few times down there, but we didn't."
Still it was important for Johnson to turn in some quality plays offensively after missing time in the preseason.
"I wasn't fortunate enough to play in the first two games so I was behind a little bit with the rest of the guys," he said. "So every time I was out on the field I had to make the plays just so I can keep my name buzzing."
Johnson's main role this season is to be a jack-of-all-trades type that knows all of the receiver positions in the offense, so if one of the starters goes down to injury he can step right in. And while Johnson respects that role, he wants to do more.
"I have to get more active," said Johnson. "I know it's big to back up everybody and come in when it's my turn, but when I'm in there I can't be passive. I've got to bring some energy and make some noise. You can't just be that backup guy that knows all the positions. I have to make plays. Not just because it's my second year. I feel I have to make plays because we're trying to get to another level.
"It's not about me and what I can do it's about getting to the playoffs and the championship game. That's the little bit of energy that we all need."