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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Jaleel Johnson learning from the best how to stuff the run

By Matthew Coller

For a long time, any rookie running back who joined the Minnesota Vikings would be in awe of Adrian Peterson. For 2017 fourth-round pick defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson experienced that feeling when he looked across the locker room at star nose tackle Linval Joseph.

“The day he walked in the door, I was like, ‘I need to be that guy,’” Johnson said after practice Sunday.

The former Iowa Hawkeye made it his goal to study every move made by Joseph, who is widely considered one of the elite players at his position and has ranked in the top 15 at his position by Pro Football Focus each of the last two years.

“Everything he does, I want to do,” Johnson said. “I try to mirror what he does as far as on the football field, whether it’s not giving up on a play or running to the ball, making plays. I’m even watching what he does in the building. He’s watching film, he’s making sure his body is feeling good for practice, he’s doing all those little things that made him a Pro Bowler and got him paid as well. He’s one of those guys that I look up to as a player.”

In college, Johnson was an exceptional pass rusher, sacking the quarterback 7.5 times last season. Now his focus is on becoming a more complete player.

“I felt like coming out of college I was OK, but when I got here going against better competition and guys who have been doing this for some years, I wasn’t where I needed to be or where I thought I was,” Johnson said.

“There are days where I just focus on playing on the run a whole lot better. There are some days where, if I don’t do anything else right that day, I make sure I master playing the run today, then tomorrow I can focus on something else and get better.”

Signs of Johnson’s growth were on display in the Vikings’ second preseason game. He picked up two impressive tackles for loss and ranked as Pro Football Focus’s highest rated player. In the process, Johnson may have put himself ahead of defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Will Sutton for a backup spot behind Joseph, Tom Johnson and Datone Jones.

“He’s playing a different spot,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “A spot where he can be more reckless. The other spot was almost a reading kind of technique. This one he can use his bulldog mentality a little bit more, I think.”

Johnson said he feels capable of playing either the three-technique spot or the nose tackle, though he hasn’t played the nose spot as often.

The post Jaleel Johnson learning from the best how to stuff the run appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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