The Minnesota Vikings went 7-9 last year with a rookie quarterback and without Adrian Peterson.
What does that mean? It means that Minnesota enters 2015 with high expectations.
Very high expectations.
“It’s been good so far,” Vikings receiver Charles Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think we’re all coming out here with a mindset to compete with one another. I think we have a great group of guys who – every position on our team is very competitive, which is going to make us a great team overall. It’s been great so far. We’ve just been taking those necessary steps to be successful.”
Johnson, especially. A seventh-round pick in 2013, the Grand Valley State product was a practice-squad player for Green Bay and Cleveland before finally getting an opportunity with the Vikings last year. He wound up being Minnesota’s third-leading receiver with 31 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns.
“My journey isn’t the one that you typically see,” Johnson said. “That started from early in my life, the things that I had to overcome to get to where I am today. Coming into the league, I was hampered with injuries and I couldn’t seem to overcome them at first. I end up getting the ACL surgery and end up coming back strong. Fortunately for me, Norv Turner, who brought me to Cleveland, they stuck with me and they brought me to Minnesota. They gave me the opportunity. That’s all I really needed. You don’t know what a person is or who a player can be if they never had the opportunity. My opportunities were kind of limited because of injuries and they stuck with me and gave me the opportunity. Once I got it, I ran with it. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’m just going to continue to grind and do what I do best and try to be the best player I can be.”
Johnson isn’t the only Viking who has had to overcome the odds. So has Teddy Bridgewater, whom many scouts dismissed as too small and too quiet to succeed as an NFL quarterback.
“People are going to find the things that kind of bring you down and knock you and try to lower you as a player,” Johnson said, “but there’s a lot of things that he does well that they don’t really speak upon. That’s his poise, his confidence, his touch, his accuracy and all those things that he has as a player.”
As a rookie, Bridgewater completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Bridgewater’s success coincided with Johnson’s.
“Each week I could see him grow,” Johnson said. “I could see him get a little bit more confident, throw with a little bit more anticipation. You could see this year he just comes out here, he knows he’s that guy, he’s that leader and he’s trying to carry our team – and he wants to be great. He wants to be perfect but he knows he don’t want to be too perfect because a perfect person can never get any better and he wants to get better. You can just see the little things he does in practice. When he throws a pass, you’ll see him finish out his reads as if he’s seeing a different coverage. Little things like that that I notice from the outside looking in that you can see him growing as a player.”