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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Even with added receiver competiton, it could be Charles (Johnson) in charge

By Bo Mitchell

MANKATO — Jersey in hand, Charles Johnson was all smiles and sweat as he left the field at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato following Saturday morning’s walk-through. Why wouldn’t he be smiling? He’s healthy again and he’s atop the depth chart at wide receiver.

“I’m just happy,” Johnson noted of his current role with the first-team offense. “I’m healthy and I’m just out here setting the standard. I know what I can do when I’m healthy so it’s no surprise to me.”

Johnson’s 2015 campaign was a surprise – in a bad way. It turned out to be a significant disappointment following a 2014 season in which he emerged as the Vikings’ most effective wide receiver down the stretch, displaying an easy chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater.

Last year, a broken rib in Week 3 affected him for about six weeks. Johnson never relocated his groove, finishing the season with just nine receptions for 127 yards and no touchdowns. He was targeted only 13 times. While Johnson was dealing with his injury, rookie Stefon Diggs emerged as the go-to receiver in Norv Turner’s offense.

As expected, the Vikings’ receiver position experienced turnover this offseason. Mike Wallace sprinted for Baltimore, where it took him a few attempts this week to pass the Ravens’ conditioning test. Sensing a need for additional talent at the position, the Vikings added Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the draft and subsidized the receiver position again with German cult hero Moritz Bohringer five rounds later. All eyes in Mankato are tracking the big pair of rookie wideouts. Meanwhile, Cordarrelle Patterson has been creating something of a buzz – okay, at least a murmur – with improved route running and conditioning.

Johnson seemed lost in the shuffle in what had quickly become a more crowded wide receiver depth chart. Some outside analysts suggested a sub-par showing in camp might even cost him his roster spot. He’s not a special-teams guy so Patterson and Adam Thielen have a leg up in that regard. Diggs, Treadwell and slot receiver Jarius Wright are locks for the 53-man roster. That probably leaves one spot for either Johnson or Mo-Bo.

For now at least, the clear advantage belongs to the veteran. Despite the obvious numbers game, Johnson won’t admit to seeing camp as a competition.

“I’m not competing with anybody,” Johnson said confidently. “I set my own standard. I compete with my own standard. I’m not out here to compete with anybody. I’m competing with my standard.”

If that standard is anything like the standard he displayed in 2014, he might hold off Treadwell and the rest of the receiver crowd longer than some expected.

Consider the offensive coordinator impressed so far.

“Charles has a good sense of doing what he needs to do to get ready and knowing that when you are called upon that you need to make the most of those opportunities,” Turner said Saturday morning. “But he’s had a really good offseason, and he looks ready to go. He is really running his routes well right now and catching the ball. It’s a long process as we go through, and we are going to need all those guys.”

As far as Charles is concerned, “all those guys” can get in line behind him.

The Vikings offense still runs through Adrian Peterson – as Turner notes, they run about 60 plays a game and Peterson “is going to get his.” And then there’s that old cliché about having just one ball to go around. As such, there probably isn’t a 1,000-yard receiver on this Vikings team, barring injuries that thin the herd. After leading the team last season, Diggs is the best bet to reach the 1,000-yard milestone – one that hasn’t been achieved by a Viking since Sidney Rice had 1,312 yards in 2009. Heck, the Vikings have only had one receiver top 900 yards since then (Percy Harvin in 2011).

Receiver by committee? Probably. Will Treadwell emerge as the starter at some point this season? It should be expected of a first-rounder. For now at least, though, Johnson is in position to be the starter across from Diggs when the Vikings take the field in Week 1 at Tennessee.

The post Even with added receiver competiton, it could be Charles (Johnson) in charge appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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