This offseason, after sitting out the first practice of organized team activities (OTAs) while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Andre Johnson said he wanted to "get back to 1,500-yard Andre."
Five games into the season, it didn't look like Johnson would come close. But after a six-game tear that rivals any in his prolific career, he's well on his way.
With 69 catches for 1,058 receiving yards, Johnson is on pace for 1,539 yards this season. It would be the third 1,500-yard season of his career and the first since he topped 1,500 in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009. Johnson would tie Marvin Harrison for the second-most 1,500-yard seasons in NFL history, behind only Jerry Rice (4).
Johnson's 461 receiving yards last week against Jacksonville and Detroit was the best two-game stretch in NFL history. The five-time Pro Bowler has averaged 129.2 receiving yards in his last six games, 10.1 yards more than Detroit's Calvin Johnson (119.1) and at least 24 yards more than everyone else (Atlanta's Julio Jones ranks third since Week 6 with 95.0 receiving yards per game). Johnson now ranks third in the league in receiving yards behind Calvin Johnson (1,257) and Reggie Wayne (1,105).
"Boy, I tell you, it's really special to watch," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said last Friday, a day after Johnson racked up 188 yards on just nine catches at Detroit.
After missing nine games with hamstring injuries last season, Johnson missed all of OTAs and mini-camp with his knee injury. He also missed time in the preseason with a groin injury. He showed no signs of rust in the regular-season opener, catching eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against Miami.
In the next four games, Johnson had only nine catches for 164 yards, including a season-low one catch for 15 yards at the New York Jets in Week 5. It sparked widespread speculation among fans and media that Johnson, at age 31 and in his 10th season, had lost a step.
"After what he had went through and watching early in the year, there was some concern early in the year," Kubiak said. "I think there was some concern on his part and my part. We were trying to work through some things, limit the reps, do all the right things to get him back.
"Then all of a sudden, we come out of New York and since then, it's just been 'Game on.'"
Since that trip to New York, Johnson has repeatedly said he feels better and better physically every week. He has attributed it to a combination of finally hitting his stride after missing so much time in the offseason and working diligently with the Texans' training staff to take care of his body.
Johnson has at least eight catches and 75 yards in five of the last six games. He has topped 100 yards three times and 150 yards twice. He set franchise records with 14 catches and 273 yards in Week 11 against Jacksonville, capped by the game-winning 48-yard touchdown catch in overtime.
"He's been exceptional," Kubiak said. "He's been exceptional in practice. All of his confidence is back. Andre is a worker. Andre plays well when he's working well during the week. That's just the way he is. It's fun to watch right now. He's exceptional. I couldn't get it to him enough (last Thursday at Detroit), I know that."
If that trend continues, Johnson will be back to '1,500-yard Andre' in no time.