One of the biggest surprises this season for the Minnesota Vikings had to have been the situation surrounding wide receiver Charles Johnson. He finished the 2014 season as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target, ending the season with 31 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns while playing in 12 games.
Many people had him picked as a breakout player in 2015 because of the way he finished the year prior and because he was taking over a full-time starter role in Norv Turner’s offense.
Things hardly went as planned for him, however, as he started in the Vikings’ first three games of the season, when he recorded six receptions for 46 yards. He then suffered a rub injury in the third week of the season against the San Diego Chargers and that caused him to sit out a couple games.
That time out of the lineup gave rookie receiver Stefon Diggs an opportunity to showcase his talents. In his NFL debut, Diggs recorded six receptions for 87 yards against the Denver Broncos, who had the No. 1 defense at the time.
He followed that up with seven receptions for 129 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs, six receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions, and six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears.
By that time, Johnson’s ribs were healed and he was ready to return, but it is hard to take a guy out of the lineup that was putting up the type of numbers Diggs was. Johnson understood that and just felt he was on the wrong end of some unfortunate circumstances.
“It wasn’t very long, just a couple weeks, few weeks (he was out), but when things are clicking and we’re winning games it’s hard to change things up,” Johnson said. “I’m a big guy, I’m built on routines. I’m built on some superstition things. Where I’m like, if I do this, this week and we win, I want to do the exact same thing. So it’s kind of just things like that, and I’m a team guy, I want to win games. That’s most important. I do want to help my team win, and it was just kind of unfortunate this season.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer even alluded to the fact that it was nothing that Johnson did, but it was more about Johnson being the odd man out once Diggs emerged in the offense. And that is what caused him to be listed as inactive for the final three games of the regular season.
“Well, it came down to a numbers game a little bit,” he said. “Diggs came in and had a big role and I wanted to dress more guys on defense.”
Every player wants to be out on the field contributing when their team is finding success, and that was probably the hardest part for Johnson when he was weaned out of the offense. The Vikings found their most success on offense when he was out of the lineup and he wanted nothing more than to be able to help out.
But he knows that situations could be a lot worse for him. He is still getting a chance to play football in the NFL for a living and is earning a paycheck for doing it.
“I’m a guy who came from nothing,” Johnson said. “I always work myself up to where I’m at. I understand it and I’ve been through it before. It’s just another page to my book, another thing I had to overcome and I’ll bounce back. It’s nothing.”
The receiver is still very positive about his position moving forward with the Vikings and is going to focus on getting better this offseason so he can come back and earn back his starting spot in the offense.
“Do what I do, go out there and grind and continue to get better,” he said. “Come back in here this offseason, OTAs and stuff, and keep doing what I do. Light it up.”