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Charles Johnson Sees Familiar Schemes in Cincinnati Defense

MANKATO, Minn. —Charles Johnson might be confused at first when he lines up at practice Wednesday and Xavier Rhodes isn't facing him.

While the pair has battled and made each other better all camp, the Vikings are ready to see a different opponent, even if Cincinnati's defensive scheme is almost identical to Minnesota's.

Johnson said he and fellow wide receiver Stefon Diggs watched film on the Bengals on Monday and noticed plenty of familiar schemes and coverages, especially since Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer used to run Cincinnati's defense.

"We were looking at a little bit of film yesterday and we were talking about how they look just like our defense," Johnson said. "Obviously Coach Zimmer came from there, so we can of understood that.

"How their DBs play is kind of similar to how our DBs play," he added. "It's kind of cool because we already know what we're going to be facing and how they're going to play us. It's going to be like seeing our defense but with different people out there."

The Vikings and Bengals will hold joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday before engaging in a preseason game Friday.

Johnson said the Vikings will be playing with some extra pride for Zimmer, who was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator from 2008-2013. Zimmer guided the Bengals defense to be a top-10 unit in the league in four of his six seasons.

"We were talking about that in the locker room earlier," Johnson said. "This is his old team and he's got a chip on his shoulder about this, and we've got to go out there and represent his team well.

"We have to show them what we're about as Coach Zimmer's football team and go out there and try to do the things he coaches us to do each and every day," he added. "We'll show them that he's a great coach and that he does things right on our side and that we love him." 

Johnson also has a tie to Cincinnati, as his hometown of Erlanger, Kentucky, is just 20 minutes south of the city.

"That's like my home team," Johnson said. "I'm right across the bridge in Northern Kentucky so the Bengals were the team that was on TV most regularly.

"Chad Ochocinco was my favorite receiver and favorite player growing up," he added.

Johnson, who was hampered by a rib injury last season, said he's happy to be leaving training camp healthy and ready to roll.

He said he was impressed by guards Alex Boone and Brandon Fusco during camp, adding that they earned his game balls from the stay in Mankato.

"I have to give it to Alex Boone or Fusco," Johnson said. "I was watching those guys every day and they were just grinding. 

"They don't get much recognition on the line, but those guys came out every day and were out there pounding," he added. "They never let up or said anything and continued to do it each day."

Kerin ready for trip to home state of Ohio

Zac Kerin is looking forward to his homecoming trip, but it isn't going to be all fun and games.

The Ohio native grew up about two hours north of Cincinnati, where the Vikings play on Friday in their preseason opener.

Even with a handful of friends expected to be in attendance, Kerin said his sole focus will be on the Bengals. The offensive lineman said it reminds him of last preseason when the Vikings played the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game.

"It's similar to last season when we played in Canton (when) I had some family members come out to the game because it was relatively close," Kerin said. "It'll be good to see them but it will be business first."

Besides, it's not like Kerin hasn't seen his family in forever. He said his parents were just in town for Saturday's night practice on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Kerin said he's extremely thankful for his family's support. His parents attended every Vikings game in 2015.

"They're very supportive, and I'm very grateful for that," Kerin said. "They made all the college games as well, and I'm lucky to have them."

The 24-year-old joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and spent that season on the practice squad before appearing in four games and the Wild Card playoff game last season.

Kerin, who said he'll play any interior position on the offensive line the Vikings need him to, was the second-team left guard Saturday night at practice. He said he's been hard at work trying to impress new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

"You don't want to get complacent, so I'm always strive to get better and improve," Kerin said. "I've been getting some good work this year and I'm trying to get better each day.

"(I'm) just trying to show (the coaches) I'm learning in the film room and making corrections," Kerin said. "The new techniques we're using and footwork are big things for me."

Mike Zimmer Foundation raises $1,600 through T-shirt sales

While Head Coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings put in work on the practice field Sunday, Zimmer's daughter, Corri, was busy off the field.

Corri, who takes the lead on the Mike Zimmer Foundation, set up shop at training camp to sell foundation T-shirts. With a variety of Vikings-centric designs and all proceeds going to a good cause, fans lined up throughout the day.

Altogether, Corri said more than $1,600 was raised for the foundation, which benefits local youth in memory of Zimmer's late wife, Vikki.

Play of the day 

The Vikings and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took a few shots downfield Tuesday morning, with the biggest play involving wide receiver Adam Thielen. 

Matched up against cornerback Mackensie Alexander, Thielen used his speed to get past the rookie down the right sideline.

Bridgewater bought time with a play-action fake and lofted a beautiful ball to Thielen about 45 yards downfield for a large gain that drew plenty of cheers from fans.


"We've been able to get a lot of things accomplished in a short time.  We wish we could be down here a little bit longer, but I think it has been good." — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on the final training camp practice in Mankato.

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