One Step To Take: WR Diontae Johnson

Bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring the last several offseasons. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.

WR Diontae Johnson – Look The Ball In

I feel like Bill Cowher talking to Greg Lloyd only a lot less motivating and a lot more depressing.

“Diontae. Catch The Ball. Catch. The. Ball.” 

He didn’t do it nearly well enough in 2020. Our focus a summer ago was on Johnson being a more reliable receiver over the middle. It didn’t happen so we’re revisiting things with a slightly different angle.

Because here’s the thing. Diontae Johnson doesn’t have bad hands. He can make some unbelievably difficult catches showing body control and hand-eye coordination. I’ve joked he makes the tough ones look easy and the easy ones look tough.

One reason for a good percentage of his drops is simply not looking the ball in the whole way. Because he’s so anxious to get upfield and make the first move, in part because it’s his style and was the offense’s identity last year (throw short, run long, get YAC) he often took his eyes off the ball a split-second too early. Didn’t see the ball in.

On at least four of his credited 13 drops last season, that was clearly the issue. 30% of the issue that’s completely avoidable. Take a look.


These all came later in the season. Have to wonder if he began pressing and had gotten worn down from the season, the criticism, and the ugly streak he was on.

Johnson is never going to have a pristine drop rate. Because he sees so many targets, he’s always going to have a couple more drops than teammates. He’s not Antonio Brown (1.8% drop rate in his final season with the Steelers). But his percentage needs to come down. And if he had just caught those four easy ones, it would’ve fallen from 9% to 6.3%. Which is right in the James Washington/Chase Claypool range. Still not great but generally not “headlines are written about it” bad. And it won’t get him benched the way it did against the Bills.

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