A year ago Charles Johnson was a member of the Cleveland Browns practice squad coming off a knee injury. Right now Johnson is preparing for a primetime game as the starter on the Minnesota Vikings budding offense. One reason Johnson has been able to grasp a starting gig is his increased physicality, as highlighted by his 10-yard touchdown catch over Raiders first round CB D.J. Hayden during the preseason.
Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune writes Johnson learning to get physical:
Charles Johnson leapt into the TCF Bank Stadium stands after a preseason touchdown before slowly working his way back to the Vikings sideline. After an array of fist-pumps and high-fives, Johnson located the cornerbacks.* *
Johnson had been grabbed and held by an Oakland Raiders defender on the 10-yard touchdown catch, something he said he got plenty of in practice against teammates.
"After I made the play, I went over and told those guys 'thank you' because they hold us so much in practice," Johnson said. "We complain so much, but you never know when that'll come up in the game when guys are holding me and jerking me. I still got to make the play like it's routine."
It's a facet of his game that often can be overlooked due to his frame. Johnson, 6-2 and 218 pounds, possesses the physicality and size the Vikings generally lack at wide receiver, and he'll finally get his shot to display his ability in a significant role this season.
Johnson ran a fade route from the slot while lined up against Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden in the second quarter of the Vikings' second preseason game. Johnson gained separation from his release as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw the ball, but Hayden was grabbing Johnson's jersey.
As the ball arrived, Johnson absorbed contact and made the catch with his outstretched hands.
Vikings receiver Charles Johnson knows he'll take contact. "When guys are holding me and jerking me,'' he said, "I still got to make the play like it's routine."
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Johnson's physical play is underrated.
"He is a lean guy, and he doesn't look as big as he is," Turner said. "I know some people have described him as not being a physical guy going to the ball, but I think he does that and I think he's done it better in this camp than he did a year ago."
With speedsters alongside him such as Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright, Johnson will provide Teddy Bridgewater with a different type of receiving option on the outside. Look for Johnson to get targeted often Monday night.
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