Is the Colts Andre Johnson’s Age an Issue?


The Indianapolis Colts recently signed longtime Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson to a 3-year, $21 million dollar contract. Johnson has been one of the best wide receivers of his generation, as he’s been a 2x First-Team All-Pro, 2x Second-Team All-Pro, and 7x Pro Bowler, all with the Texans.

In addition to Johnson’s notable accolades, he’s the Houston Texans all-time franchise career leader in receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), and receiving touchdowns (64). The aforementioned numbers rank as follows in NFL career history all-time:

  • 1,012 receptions (9th all-time)
  • 13,597 receiving yards (12th all-time)
  • 64 touchdowns (tied 129th)

Such numbers are even more impressive, when one considers that Johnson never had the luxury of an elite quarterback throwing him tight spirals. His closest thing was Matt Schaub, a 2x Pro Bowler, but he largely struggled with inconsistent starting quarterback play from the likes of David Carr, Sage Rosenfels, Case Keenum, and Ryan Fitzpatrick among others.

With Indianapolis, Johnson will have the opportunity to play with a special star young quarterback like Andrew Luck. In fact, when asked why he chose the Colts, Johnson’s response was, “Andrew Luck“. Specifically, Johnson said (via

"“That was the big thing,” said Johnson. “I wanted to go somewhere with a stable quarterback. The thing about Andrew, he’s going to be around for a while. He’s a heck of a player. I think he’s a very special player. I can’t wait to get to work with him.”"

However, set to turn 34 years old, Johnson isn’t the same dominating wideout he once was. He’s lost a bit of his deep speed and explosiveness, but it doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive #2 wideout to compliment big-play wideout T.Y. Hilton.

At 6’3″, 230 pounds, Johnson is a big bodied possession wideout that still understands how to use his wide frame to get open and physically create separation, even if he can’t as much anymore with his feet:

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) makes a catch against Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. The Colts defeated the Texans 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just as Reggie Wayne showed in his 34 year old campaign with the Colts, when he caught 106 receptions for 1,355 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in 2012, a player doesn’t have to be the biggest, strongest, or fastest to be highly effective as a veteran wide receiver, especially playing with Andrew Luck.

As an 11-year veteran, Johnson understands the nuances of the position probably better than almost any wideout currently still playing. He’s highly intelligent, well-spoken, and understands the intricacies of route running, even if he may not have the blazing speed and burst he once had. That will serve him a long way towards having a productive year next season.

To place in proper perspective, here’s how Johnson’s 33-year old season with the Texans last season, in which he caught 85 receptions for 936 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns compares to some of the notable seasons of accomplished modern-day 34 year old NFL wideouts:

While Johnson’s 33 year old season pales in comparison to a lot of these notable 34 year old wideouts’ seasons, keep in mind that this was while catching passes from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick (12 games), Ryan Mallett (2 games), Case Keenum (2 games), and Tom Savage. Like many of the other wideouts listed on the above graphic, Johnson should significantly benefit from playing with an elite quarterback of Luck’s caliber, a luxury that he’s never been previously afforded.

Anyone expecting Johnson to return to his once dominant form is likely in for a rude awakening; however, he can still be a productive #2 wideout for the Colts. Johnson wasn’t brought in to be “Superman” after all. At age 34, he was brought in to be more like “Robin”. That’s a role that even at age 34 years old, Johnson still figures to fulfill very well.

It’s worth noting that per ProFootballfocus, most wide receivers production typically doesn’t start to significantly diminish until they turn 35 years old, which means Johnson still has a year to spare:

"“Receivers maintain most of their value until they hit 35 and clearly don’t suffer from the same sharp decline as running backs…the productivity of wide receivers really takes a dive after 34…”"

It looks as though Colts fans won’t have to worry so much about next season, as two former Indianapolis Colts greats in the aforementioned Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison (above) also showed during their highly productive 34 year old seasons. However, it looks as though 2016 may be the bigger season of worry, when it comes to a potential significant drop-off in Andre Johnson‘s production.

Until then, the Colts can focus on winning a Super Bowl in 2015, knowing they’ll likely have a highly productive #2 wideout in Andre Johnson to help bolster the offense and their already prolific passing attack.

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne (87) and Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) after the game at NRG Stadium. The Colts defeated the Texans 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports