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Vikings DT Tom Johnson proved in 2017 he’s every-down player

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson (92) is introduced before an NFL wild-card football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Heading into 2017, the Minnesota Vikings brought in plenty of competition for Tom Johnson at defensive tackle.

Knowing that former first-round pick Sharrif Floyd was unlikely to suit up this season, the Vikings signed former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones and drafted Iowa standout Jaleel Johnson in the fourth round.

By the end of camp, it was clear that Johnson didn’t need the help, finishing the season just short of 700 total snaps.

He picked up three stuffed runs and 30 tackles on 203 run snaps and managed a solid 75.6 (out of 100) run grade by Pro Football Focus. Johnson started 15 of 16 games, the most of his career by far.

“It’s just that you guys are looking,” Johnson said, smiling. “That’s what it is. I said at the beginning of the year when the question came, I said if you watch film, you’ll see that I’ve always been a solid run player, I haven’t had opportunities and the volume of plays to be evaluated by [media]. That’s stuff people in the league already know. I guess it’s just time for you guys to pay a little more attention to that and actually see it.”

Johnson was signed by the Vikings in 2014 to be a situational pass rusher. In his first year, the veteran D-lineman had 6.5 sacks. That number has gone down, but he was still credited with 23.0 QB pressures by Football Outsiders.

The ever-confident DT said there was nothing magical about his solid play against the run, it was simply due to an increase in opportunity.

“You have to be aggressive and be sound,” Johnson said. “Three-technique is usually playing with a little more space than a nose [tackle], not as much space as the end, so you have to be quick enough to attack the outside shoulder of the guards when they’re going to run plays toward you and also be stout enough to take on double teams…quickness is my advantage so it’s closing on guards fast enough to get them off their feet or before they can get their foot down and be downhill…with our scheme, it’s a one-gap scheme, so if you’re attacking your responsibility, you make the plays that come your way.”

The Vikings finished the season ranking fifth in rushing yards per attempt against and second in total rushing yards allowed.

Vikings 2014 seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen mixed in with Johnson in run-specific situations, playing 193 run snaps.

  • Gordon Guffey

    I totally agree with him ~ I to was a little worried about him holding up over a full season ~ That being said I’m happy he proved me wrong and that all the BS we fans were fed about him was totally wrong ~

    Zimmer and the defensive staff found ways to make the game plan for Johnson and others instead of trying to make the trying to force a square into a circle ~

    Outstanding on the effort put in by both the players ans coaches ~

    • Golden Groper

      I was forced into a circle once, but they ended up regretting it.

      • O-Whizz

        That’s because you thought it was a circle jerk

        • Golden Groper

          Very clever Circle-Whizz.

      • Gordon Guffey

        LOL Golden ~

  • Cman

    No Floyd and no Peterson and our team is much better. Go figure. We had a one dimensional RB and everyone knew what was going to happen in certain downs, now we have RB’s that can run, catch, and block, so it keeps defenses honest.

    • linus

      The Vikings didn’t have Floyd last year either, except for about half of the plays in the season opener.

      • Andrew Stead

        Floyd was a great player. Then he got hurt, and suffered nerve damage during his surgery which ended his career. I didn’t think Johnson could hold up as a starting 3 technique (and, given the moves made, neither did the team), but good for him for pulling it off. It will be interesting to see what his market is. I expect only one of the old DLs (Robison/Johnson) will be back, but we’ll see.

        Stephen’s performance doesn’t warrant resigning. He’s been amazing for a 7th rd pick, but there is a big difference between that and being someone who should be resigned at a position where Linval is already getting paid. Good teams find the next cheap back-up, not overpay to keep the current one.

  • linus

    Unfortunately, Johnson is a free agent after this season. Re-signing him seems like a no-brainer, but he’ll be 34, and they have a lot of other guys to lock up, too. Hopefully they won’t run out of cap room.

    • cka2nd

      He’s not the only DT who’s a free agent after this year. Shamar Stephen is too, and my guess is that if Johnson is re-signed, which I think is likely if he wants to come back, but may be less so if we win it all, Stephen will move on to get more playing time someplace else. I haven’t seen a recent PFF grade for Stephen, but earlier in the year he was grading almost 30 points higher than his previous annual grades, so there should be a market for him as a rotational DT. If Johnson does retire or sign someplace else, I’d like to see Stephen re-signed.

  • Gordon Guffey

    This could be a big hit for Johnson and the rest of the defense ~ Hopefully he stays with the Vikings ~

    NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the Bears requested to interview Vikings DC George Edwards for their head-coaching vacancy.

    Edwards has been the Vikings’ defensive coordinator since coach Mike Zimmer got the job in 2014. Zimmer runs the show on defense, but Edwards obviously has a hand in things. He’s never been a head coach at any level. The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, but Edwards would seem to be a serious long shot for the Bears’ gig. He’d fulfill the Rooney Rule.
    Related: Bears
    Source: Ian Rapoport on Twitter Jan 3 – 10:35 AM


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