The departure of Lee Evans via trade last week left the receiving corps seeking new leadership, with Stevie Johnson the obvious candidate after his breakout 2010 season. But Johnson doesn't want lemmings in the receivers' room. He wants players blazing their own trails so they can just as successful as he was last season.
"Who said there can't be more than one leader," asked Johnson. "That's what I'm trying to build. Obviously the attention is on me, but I feel as a leader I want to create other leaders and not followers. So in this receiving corps I'm going to try to build leaders out of them and not followers. They can watch me and I lead by example, but I want them to be leaders on their own."
Johnson is the unquestioned number one receiver on Buffalo's roster now that Evans is playing football in Baltimore. He has no problem if they want to apply Johnson's methods and practice habits to their game. He just doesn't want any clones. He wants low receivers taking charge of their respective games.
"I don't want my guys to look at it like, 'I have to look up to Stevie and do it how he does it.' No, I want them to do it their way," said Johnson. "Watch how I do it and then build off of that. Don't follow me. Just be your own leader. Build off of it. We all have something to prove so why wouldn't they take this opportunity and make something of it?"
With no game planning in the preseason it's unlikely that Johnson will get a feel for how opposing defenses will shift and change their coverage with Evans no longer opposite Johnson, but he has a pretty good idea of what to expect.
"I think it's obvious they're going to roll coverages more to my side, but that's a part of the game," he said. "There are plenty of number one receivers on other teams that are dealing with that also. That just puts more pressure on the other guys, David (Nelson), Donald (Jones), Roscoe (Parrish) and Naaman (Roosevelt) to step up. It's going to be a big opportunity just like I had."
Johnson isn't foreign to double teams. He saw a healthy number of them in the second half of the season after his production began to spike. The Bills top wideout realizes the extra attention could compromise his statistics much like they did Evans, but as long as the team is successful he's good with it.
"If I get more stats off of it, I get more stats and if I don't, then I don't," said Johnson. "But if somebody else is getting stats and we're getting wins it's all good for the team. I'll step into that role and if they want to roll coverages to me go ahead, take me away, but you still have to worry about Roscoe, the problems with Donald and David. So I feel like we're still in a good position."