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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Dwindling playing time is just one more obstacle to Charles Johnson

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Charles Johnson isn’t about to play the NFL ‘diva’ wide receiver stereotype, even though this is the moment to do so.

Johnson enjoyed a breakout end to the 2014 season, becoming the top target when a rookie Teddy Bridgewater was putting up his best numbers. Offseason comments from Norv Turner seemed to perpetuate what many assumed — Johnson would be a force to reckon with in a Vikings offense loaded with potential.

Ten months after Turner called Johnson “far and away” the Vikings’ best receiver from last season, Johnson didn’t see a single snap in Thursday night’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, a game in which 11 different targets caught a pass.

“I’m sure he is probably frustrated that he’s not [playing],” coach Mike Zimmer said. “But you know, sometimes that’s the way it goes. You’d have to talk to him about that. But he continues to work hard, he continues to do a good job in practice. Just like everybody, when his opportunity comes, I’m sure he’ll do good.”

Johnson said he isn’t entirely sure why he’s been phased out, a process that started with a rib injury in Week 3, which opened the door for Diggs, the standout rookie, to take his starting role.

Sitting at his locker on Wednesday, Johnson said he’s fully healthy now, but declined to discuss talks with the coaching staff. He’s able to draw from past experiences to deal with his current situation. Johnson was a little-known recruit out of Grand Valley State, a Division II program, and had his 2013 rookie season derailed in Green Bay by a torn ACL as a seventh-round pick.

But after averaging 17 yards per catch in the final seven weeks of last season, there should be little doubt within the Vikings’ organization about what he can do, Johnson added.

“I’ve been through a lot, it’s easy for me now,” Johnson said. “I just know how to work. I know what I’m capable of and I think everybody else knows in the locker room and the offices knows what I’m capable of, it’s just about what’s going to happen in the opportunities when they come.”

The chances have been few and far between for this Vikings’ run-heavy offense, even though Johnson watched from the sideline as Bridgewater threw for a career-high 335 yards last week against the Cardinals. The Vikings rank second-to-last in nearly every passing category, including yards per game (189.7), passing touchdowns (8) and average throws per game (30).

Bridgewater found an immediate connection with Johnson’s replacement in Diggs, who shot out of the gate with 324 yards in his first three games. Diggs’ production during Johnson’s recovery from a rib injury certainly meant Johnson wouldn’t jump back into the starting lineup — and he hasn’t.

Upon his return in Week 7, Johnson was phased back in as a situational player. He was the receiver in heavy personnel packages that leaned toward running the football. He saw a spike in playing time after he helped save the win at Chicago on Nov. 1, making a leaping 35-yard grab that help set up the game-winning field goal.

But since Johnson’s 28 snaps the following week against St. Louis, in which he had one catch for 25 yards on two targets, he’s seen nine snaps per game and hasn’t been thrown to.

It’s a mystery that Johnson seemed to embody with a shrug when asked what has kept him from playing.

“I’m just here to grind and do what I do,” Johnson said. “When the opportunity comes, it’ll come.”

The post Dwindling playing time is just one more obstacle to Charles Johnson appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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