MINNEAPOLIS – Bisi Johnson had the first down, but he wasn’t ready to head out of bounds.
On third-and-8 from the Vikings 22, quarterback Kyle Sloter dropped back and fired to Johnson, who made the catch in stride at the 25.
Cardinals defenders Jeff Holland and Chris Jones closed in on the rookie receiver along the left sideline after 10 yards, but Johnson put on a spin move and stayed on his feet, turning the play into a 22-yard gain.
“It was a shallow burst, it was man coverage. I had an opening, caught the ball,” Johnson said. “I made a mistake a few plays before where I didn’t just take it up in the open field, so I saw some open field, and then I wasn’t going to go out of bounds.
“I figured I’d juke him out a little bit and get a few extra yards,” he added.
The double-digit gain kept alive the Vikings fourth-quarter drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown by running back Mike Boone. It also was one of two catches by Johnson to convert third downs.
Boone called Johnson “a spark” that the Vikings needed to string together some plays offensively and ultimately defeat the Cardinals 20-9 in both teams’ third preseason contest.
“As athletes, we try to be that spark,” Boone said. “Anytime a play needs to be made, we want to be the ones that make it. Shout-out to Bisi, he was there a few times to make that big play.”
Vikings fans have gotten a limited look at Minnesota’s seventh-round draft pick, including a touchdown catch he made against the Saints in Preseason 1. Johnson’s teammates, on the other hand, are used to seeing the effort and performance on a daily basis.
“He works hard, he’s dependable. Great routes, and [he’s] a good blocker – consistently,” Boone said.
“That’s my evaluation of him,” he added with a smile. “I’m not a coach, but that’s what I see.”
Johnson finished the game with three catches for a team-leading 52 yards (17.3 average). His outing was not without mistakes, as he acknowledged postgame.
“I think in the first half I definitely didn’t have the game I wanted – I had some mental errors, missed assignments, [some of those things] that some of the fans may not see, and I have to hold myself accountable,” Johnson said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Johnson during his postgame session with the media and gave an even assessment, saying that he’s “continued to do a good job” throughout the preseason.
“When he gets in there, he makes plays and catches the ball and typically runs the right routes,” Zimmer said. “He ran one wrong one today. We had a couple; Irv Smith [Jr.] ran a wrong one today. There are things like that, that shouldn’t be happening in a game like this.”
Johnson said he’s gained a “huge” amount of confidence in the months since first arriving in Minnesota for rookie minicamp.
Throughout Organized Team Activities, Vikings Training Camp and now three of four exhibition games, Johnson pointed to an increased comfort level in the playbook.
Asked if it’s important to build one game off of another, he responded, “Absolutely.”
“You’ve got to keep building on what we’ve [worked on], and that’s what some of the coaches talk about,” Johnson said. “[Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak’s in my ear, like, ‘Stack days on top of each other,’ whether it’s practice, whether it’s the game, and I think I’m doing that.’ ”
Johnson will have one more preseason game to add to his resume when the Vikings head to Buffalo for a Thursday night game.
“[I want to prove] that I can play with the best of them,” Johnson said. “I think I’m going to get an opportunity to play a good majority of the game, and I just have to make the most of my opportunities.”