Although neither of them are worried about it – and probably shouldn’t be considering it is preseason – Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace have combined for six catches for 43 yards in three preseason games.
Wallace has maintained several times throughout the preseason that the Minnesota Vikings are saving their true offense for the regular season, but the bigger question might be which one of the team’s top two receivers will have a bigger season.
To date, and based off the history of last season, the leading receiver could be Johnson, the former seventh-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers whom the Vikings signed off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad last year. Last year, Johnson turned out to be Teddy Bridgewater favorite target after the 6-foot-2, 217-pound receiver finally cracked the starting lineup for the final six games.
“It all just starts in practice. I don’t know how long exactly it takes to develop a chemistry. You just go out there, run the plays and when he makes the right reads and it comes to you, you want to make that play for him. He sees that,” Johnson said. “… It just clicked from the beginning and we’re pretty much on the same page. He knows what I’m doing and I pretty much know what he’s going to do. We just give each other head nods, understanding what’s going to happen.”
So far this preseason, Wallace has only one catch for 2 yards and Johnson has five for 41 yards.
Johnson had the benefit of learning coordinator Norv Turner’s offense while on reserve/non-football-injury list with the Browns in 2013. He essentially followed Turner to Minnesota nine months later and his reliability in route-running was apparent.
“I think I do have a lot of trust in Teddy and I think he has a lot of trust in me. I think we’re both on the same page but I think he also has a lot of confidence in the other receivers, our tight ends. I think he has enough confidence with everyone on our offensive side, where if something happens he knows they’re going to fix it,” Johnson said. “If he throws a ball to them, he expects them to catch it and we expect him to make the right reads and deliver the ball to us. It’s all holding each other to a standard, holding each other to a certain standard that you want perfection, but not perfect enough that you can’t grow from it and learn from it. I think we all have great expectations for one another and we’re all confident in one another.”
While Johnson has been a go-to receiver for Bridgewater, the quarterback believes he and Wallace are developing the needed chemistry. A sign of that may have emerged in Thursday’s practice when Wallace made a great catch over the top of Xavier Rhodes for a 40-yard touchdown.
“Mike, he and I, we’re getting on the same page and today we were able to connect on the deep ball. We’re going to only get better,” Bridgewater said. “We do want to get Mike going in the regular season. He’s a guy that’s going to be huge for us in the pass game, and in the run game and give us he’s going to force teams to give us different looks.”
The presence of Wallace’s deep speed could also force defenses into doubling him more, opening up the running game for Adrian Peterson, the middle of the field for Kyle Rudolph, or the opposite side with Johnson.
“It’s preseason so most of the teams aren’t really game-planning too much for certain players and saying, ‘Alright, we’ve got to put help over the top of Mike,’” Johnson said. “We know there’s going to be a good chance we’re going to expect that because Mike’s an established guy who’s made a lot of plays in this league and you’ve got to really respect his talent. Whatever the defense throws at us, we expect to go out there and run the right routes, Teddy to make the right reads and deliver it to the right person.”