Tom Johnson earning bigger role for Vikings

Tom Johnson was one of the Vikings’ best pass rushers last year and that’s helping him earn a bigger role this year. He and Mike Zimmer discussed after another strong performance from Johnson in the preseason opener.

This offseason the Minnesota Vikings re-signed defensive tackle Tom Johnson to a three-year deal after previously signing him to a one-year deal in 2014. Even though Johnson is 30 years old, older than most free agents the Vikings tend to sign, he has proven that he is still able to play the game at a high level.

Johnson finished the 2014 season with 22 tackles, 6½ sacks and a forced fumble. Even though he only saw the field on 40.48 percent of the team’s defensive snaps he was second on the team in sacks – behind Everson Griffen’s 12.

The team is looking to further utilize his talents by creating some extra packages for the defensive tackle, but it is somewhat up to him to see how often he sees the field.

“They’ve got me in a few more packages this year,” Johnson said. “Try to utilize my speed, my quickness or whatever, and I’m just out there every play. If I’ve got five reps, I’m trying to make a play at least four out of five. If I’m out there 40, I’m just trying to do the same. Trying to be as consistent as possible so they tell me they have a role for me. I’m embracing it and I’m going to try to make the best of it.

“I came in knowing what I was going to do, for the most part, and it was up to me to increase that role. I’m having a solid camp, everybody’s been gelling real well – as in the defensive linemen – and we’re feeling each other and learning to play off each other. So I think that as the camp continues my role will increase even more.”

Johnson is off to a hot start in earning his way to more reps after his effort in the Hall of Fame Game Sunday. He recorded two tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits, but even when he didn’t reach the quarterback he was in the backfield rushing throws on multiple occasions.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was impressed with the performance but thought there were still some plays that Johnson left out on the field.

“He had a lot of pressure, he had some chances for some negative-yardage plays, which is another thing we have been talking about a little bit, so we have changed up a few things we have been doing,” Zimmer said. “He missed a couple of tackles in the backfield, otherwise he could’ve had a big night.”

The defensive tackle agreed with Zimmer’s assessment on his performance and knows he needs to do a better job at finishing plays in the backfield when he gets a chance. He was a little embarrassed when one of the Pittsburgh Steelers faked him out in the backfield and he doesn’t want to have that happen again.

“When I’ve got an opportunity to make a tackle for a loss, I make it,” he said. “I can’t let the guys fake me out like that. It was pretty bad. I went back and watched it yesterday so when the play is out there to make, I’ve got to make them.”

Those are the types of things that he wants to avoid happening in the regular season because he wants his teammates to be able to trust him. So for now he is just hitting the practice field and the film room in order to improve his game.

“It’s preseason right now, but when the game is on the line you’ve got to be able to come through for your team so I’ve just got to be out in practice,” he said. “Focus a little more on breaking down when the runner’s going outside and try to make that play in the game.”

Viking Update Top Stories