Jaleel Johnson put an exclamation point on his excellent preseason by dominating the middle on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins. The Minnesota Vikings’ fourth-round pick should now be recognized by the voting committee and fan voters as Mr. Mankato.
Johnson started out slowly at training camp, but caught on quickly once the Vikings began using him more often at three-technique defensive tackle than nose tackle. Battling for position with several other DTs, including offseason signees Will Sutton and Datone Jones, Johnson stepped up when the lights turned on for preseason games.
He was most noticeable against the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson had six tackles, including two plays blown up in the backfield. But he wasn’t a one-hit preseason wonder. The former Iowa Hawkeye was strong against the 49ers, making several stops and breaking through the line to put a big hit on his former teammate CJ Beathard.
Most impressively, Johnson was able to work off blocks consistently through the preseason on plays like this one:
— Footballzone (@UReady4Football) September 1, 2017
Johnson’s performance not only put him ahead of Jones on the depth chart, it opened the door to the possibility of him having a role in the defense. Veteran Tom Johnson will start, but Jaleel could be used in run situations.
So Johnson checked off every Mr. Mankato box. He made a name for himself in camp/preseason, made splashy plays and set himself up for a job.
If there were such a thing as a 10-player Mr. Mankato ballot, this is what mine would look like: