Johnson takes aim at No. 2 receiver spot for Vikings
Bisi Johnson, a seventh-round draft choice out of Colorado State, is in his second year with the Vikings. After catching 31 passes as a rookie, Johnson is off to a strong start in training camp in 2020.
EAGAN -- Bisi Johnson has always worked hard at running routes.
The second-year Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver expects to be doing a lot of that this season.
Johnson was a seventh-round draft choice out of Colorado State in 2019, but he thought his route running was very defined when he entered the NFL.
“I really think that was the best part of my game," he said. "That’s what caught coaches' eyes and stuff like that in combines. And I just preached that in all my interviews. That’s what I have attention to detail with, my routes and I think that helped me to get to where I am now.”
The 23-year-old has excelled so far during his second training camp with the Vikings. Johnson has been working very well with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“I think Bisi Johnson has had one of the best training camps of anyone on the team,” Cousins said.
A year ago Johnson was the team's No. 3 receiver from early on in the season. But when Adam Thielen was injured in the seventh game, Johnson started six games.
“When Thielen went down last year, I got my opportunity and I think I made the most of it for the most part,” Johnson said. “But then it’s a whole new year now and I just have to prove myself again.”
Last year Johnson averaged 9.5 yards on 31 catches and snared three touchdown passes from Cousins. Johnson's 119.4 passer rating when targeted ranked fifth among rookies in 2019.
EXTRA WORK PAYS OFF
Johnson said putting in extra work during his rookie training camp definitely paid off.
“(Quarterback) Jake Browning and I threw I don’t know how many times after practice and I don’t know how many balls," Johnson said. "But it was a bunch and then it was not only that but it was locking in on the playbooks after practice when I’m back at the hotel. Just hours on end studying a lot.”
The 6-foot, 204 pounder ran a modest 4.51-second 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine prior to the 2019 draft. But he was the fifth-fastest wideout with a 6.88-second time in the three-cone drill.
That quickness helps with his route running, and so does knowledge of the playbook. The plays are much more ingrained into Johnson's mind as he begins his second pro training camp.
“Yeah, it’s way different," he said. "I think the game has definitely slowed down for me a lot as far as understanding the playbook, being confident in my route running and things like that. It’s just easier to go out there and just play football.”
The Vikings wide receiving corps has a different look this year. Thielen is back as the team's No. 1 receiver. But veterans Stefon Diggs (traded) and Laquon Treadwell (free agent) are no longer with the team. Johnson is battling a number of players for a starting spot, including rookie Justin Jefferson, a first-round draft choice.
“I think we all know we have a lot of talent in this room, whether it’s guys we drafted or some of the guys they brought back or guys like Tajae Sharpe," Johnson said. "There’s a lot of competition in the room, but it’s also exciting.”
With COVID-19, NFL teams were not allowed to have official team workouts this spring. Johnson was back in his home state of Colorado honing his skills, however, with some members of the Denver Broncos.
“There were a lot of pro guys out there, which helped because you want to surround yourself with those kind of guys when you’re training for the NFL," Johnson said. "So I think I definitely had an edge this offseason for sure.”
Last year Johnson had the advantage of playing in preseason games to showcase his skills. This year's younger players will not get that opportunity as preseason games have been canceled due to the pandemic. That makes opportunities in practice more important than ever.
“They’re incredibly important,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if I would have been here without preseason (games) so I’ve been preaching to these rookies that hey, you've got to take advantage of every rep whether it’s on offense or it’s on special teams. But I’ve definitely seen the competition in these guys.”
Johnson has been turning heads with his play in training camp, but he is also sporting a new look. He bleached his hair blond about two months ago. It is now starting to grow out, but the top of his hair remains blond.
“We’ll see, I’ll probably keep the trend going,” he said.