Jaleel Johnson – DT
Jaleel Johnson is coming off a career season. He had 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2019. Despite the emergence, the team went out and signed Michael Pierce from Baltimore. That move and the loss of Linval Joseph has dominated the defensive line talk for the Vikings this offseason, but perhaps more focus needs to be given to Johnson.
Johnson provides a dual role on the Vikings’ defensive line. He has shown the ability to stuff the run while being able to provide interior pressure. While he isn’t a true three-technique defensive tackle, there is a chance he starts there for the Vikings this season. Shamar Stephen had that job a year ago and was extremely underwhelming. He was rarely in opponents’ backfields and was pushed around in the running game. If Johnson can build off his 2019 performance, he has a strong chance to win this job.
Johnson also has extra motivation this season. He’s in a contract year and will be playing for a fat payday in 2021. That may or may not come from the Vikings, but the team will benefit if his play improves for this reason. While the attention has gone to Pierce and rookie James Lynch this offseason, it could be number 94 who emerges as the Vikings’ best interior defender in 2020.