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Jaleel Johnson Set to Start at Nose Tackle for Linval Joseph vs. Cowboys

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson is in line to make his second career start Sunday night against the Cowboys.

The Vikings ruled starting defensive tackle Linval Joseph out of the game with a knee injury, meaning Johnson will slide into the starting lineup.

“The only challenge is that my number’s been called, and I’ve got to go out there and do what I do and perform at a high level,” Johnson said. “Nothing special about it, nothing crazy … just do what I’ve been doing. There’s no pressure at all. I’m ready for it.

“I’ve embraced this since the day I got here. I’ve embraced the challenge and embrace the competitiveness of it,” Johnson added. “When your number is called, you have to be ready to go. That’s what we’re doing here.”

Johnson was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Iowa. His lone pro start came in Week 7 of the 2018 season against the Jets when Joseph was also sidelined.

Minnesota earned a 37-17 win in that game as the New York native helped limit the Jets to 71 rushing yards on 24 carries.

The Vikings defensive line faces perhaps its toughest test of the season on the ground Sunday against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott — who is sixth in the NFL with 741 rushing yards — plus a starting offensive line that features a trio of first-round picks.

“I know those guys are really good up front. I know that,” Johnson said. “But nothing is different … nothing is going to change. Just go out there and play physical and aggressive.

“They have a really good running back, too, so the challenge is being able to stop the run this week,” Johnson added. “I think we’ll do a good job.”

Johnson played both nose tackle and the 3-technique spot earlier in his career, but has settled into the backup nose tackle gig nicely.

“He’s much better playing the technique,” said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. “Like I’ve said before, he used to be a bull in a china shop. Now he’s playing the technique, he plays hard.

“He’s been playing good all year long,” Zimmer added.

Johnson has 14 total tackles (according to coaches’ stats), with a tackle for loss and 0.5 sacks so far in 2019.

He said he will embrace the bright lights and big stage of getting a start on national television.

“I don’t even worry about it, just block it all out,” Johnson said. “I worry about what’s at hand, and that’s playing against the Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge trying to fill in for [Joseph],” Johnson said. “But outside of that, it’s no pressure. I take what he’s taught me, along with our coaches, and just run with it.”

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