Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson won't be handed jobs as Vikings' guards
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Fusco and Johnson took reps with the first-team offense during Wednesday's organized team activities, but coach Leslie Frazier made it clear that both linemen will feel competition through training camp.
"Hopefully, between DeMarcus Love, Travis (Bond), Jeff (Baca) and Seth (Olsen), who we signed as well, we'll create some competition and really push the guys who are starters to improve," Frazier said. "And if for some reason (Fusco and Johnson) stumble, we have some other guys that can step up."
Fusco, 24, was named starting right guard in his second season out of Division II Slippery Rock and often struggled with hand placement and getting lost in space.
Johnson, 29, transitioned from left tackle to left guard last year, proving to be a better fit for the veteran, but not up to par with the team's expectations.
"I think I could get a little bit better at everything," Johnson said. "When you're inside at guard, you have less room to work with, but you're going up against bigger guys. It's a different technique."
Entering his eighth season, Johnson was one of a few Vikings' players to have their contracts restructured to help free up cap room in the offseason, along with tight end John Carlson and defensive veteran Kevin Williams.
Johnson said he essentially took one for the team when he signed a new deal in March that cut his maximum compensation and his cap number for 2013 by $500,000.
"I don't think anybody would be happy if somebody takes money from you," Johnson said. "But I look at it in the fact of, I did it, we were able to sign (right tackle) Phil Loadholt back, bring in (receiver) Greg Jennings."
Fusco allowed a team-high 35 total quarterback pressures last season and ultimately split time with Geoff Schwartz at right guard before returning to full-time work with three games left in the regular season.
Entering his third year, Fusco said he's still shaking aspects of his college game.
"I need to not play so out of control," Fusco said. "That's probably the biggest thing, not trying to be a superhero out there. ... I need to use more of my hands. I know I got away with it in college."
Fusco said he leans on veterans like Johnson and center John Sullivan for advice and hopes the trio can hold it together inside for another season.
"We see the same things, the same looks out there," Fusco said. "We often ask each other what to do on a play and to help out. We're a good unit out there."
The Vikings added Baca, who has been working at guard and center, in the sixth round and Bond, who has been working at tackle and right guard, in the seventh round of April's draft.
They also brought back Olsen, who was on the Vikings' practice squad before spending parts of the past two seasons on the Indianapolis Colts' active roster.
Love, a sixth-round pick from the 2011 draft who spent last season on injured reserve, could factor into the mix as well.
"We've tried to, throughout this offseason, talk about creating more competition at the guard spot," Frazier said. "We think that will help our football team."