Stevie Johnson still has to test his lower back injury in practice Wednesday to see just where he's at after what was essentially a week off for the Bills top receiver. Missing a full week of practice left interim starting quarterback Thad Lewis without a valuable slot receiver in the passing game last Sunday. Lewis isn't 100 percent healthy either, but if both are on the field this weekend in Miami, working between the numbers should be even more productive than it was this past week.
Only seven of Lewis' 32 pass attempts were thrown to the middle of the field last Sunday, but they represented six of his 19 completions in the game (31.5%). Lewis was 6-7 passing for 65 yards over the middle including his 22-yard touchdown strike to Scott Chandler.
Four of his other completions over the middle went to backs with Chandler accounting for a second completion, which was also the longest (25 yards). The only incompletion targeted Chris Hogan on a slant.
Adding Johnson to the mix in the middle of the field could serve as a valuable security blanket this Sunday against a Dolphins defense that should be able to ratchet up their pressure this week with the anticipated return of top pass rusher Cameron Wake from injury.
Lewis looks very comfortable throwing to the middle of the field and looked very accurate in hitting targets in between the numbers.
Being forced to watch the game last Sunday, Johnson's first absence from the lineup in more than three seasons, provided the receiver with a different perspective on the offense and how he fits into it.
"It was a good thing and a bad thing," he said. "I always want to be out there on a Sunday. Just watching it as a fan of the game you see little things you probably would've missed if you were playing because you're so locked in. I feel like I took some good things out of watching the games."
Johnson has been a reliable target on quick slants, which the Bills have made use of to stay in manageable down and distance situations. He's also made some plays on the boundary, but his work out of the slot could prove to be the most fruitful for Lewis and the offense. With T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin effectively stretching the field this past week on the outside it could very well pull attention away from Johnson this coming week.
"I feel like that's a big element for our offense throwing the deep ball," Johnson said. "T.J. caught one early, Flash (Goodwin) caught one for a touchdown and now I've got to do my part work, work the middle and the outside a little bit and (Robert) Woods can do the same thing. So we should be cool."