Monday afternoon marked the most time Olabisi Johnson has spent in the same huddle with Kirk Cousins since the Vikings selected Johnson with the third of their four seventh-round draft picks back in April.
“Yeah, for sure,” said the 6-foot, 204-pounder from Colorado State. “I’ve made some rookie mistakes, but I think they’ve seen how I’ve come back from them. They see me getting more comfortable, and that’s why they’re giving me more opportunities with the 1s. I’m grateful for it.”
Asked before practice about the many young receivers fighting for roster spots behind starters Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Johnson was the first one coach Mike Zimmer patted on the back.
Then, during practice, Johnson and Brandon Zylstra rotated in with the first team. When the Vikings went to three receivers, Chad Beebe came in.
“Olibisi is doing well,” Zimmer said. “He’s playing a multiple number of spots. Catches the ball well. Gets to the right place most of the time.”
The offensive coaches certainly aren’t worried about Johnson’s learning capacity.
“I’m playing the ‘X,’ the ‘F’ and the ‘Z,’ ” he said. “I’m playing it all. I think that definitely gives me the best opportunity to play on Sunday.
‘‘That’s my goal. Not just to make the team but to contribute. I want to learn the whole playbook.”
Overall, Zimmer said the young receivers have stepped up their efforts to learn where to be and when to be there. That was a concern for Zimmer a week ago.
“It is tough for young guys to come in and learn the verbiage, learn the formations, learn the correct alignments in every one of the formations because there are a ton of formations,” Zimmer said.
“And then knowing what to do and being at the proper depths. … They’re still trying to work things out. It’s going to be a while before we figure that spot out, I think.”
Johnson said the volume of information is “just a little bigger” than what he was used to in college.
“But we had similar terms, words and concepts,” he said. “It’s not that much different. Not too much for my plate.”
Run, Zim, run
The football world knows by now just how dedicated Zimmer wants his team to be when it comes to running the ball.
To enhance the chances of that actually happening, the Vikings have not strayed one bit from the five starters they’ve put on the field in training camp.
That, apparently, is helping the Vikings adjust to offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison’s heavy usage of the zone-blocking scheme.
“The offensive line, especially in the running game, is doing very well,” Zimmer said. “[Dennison] is a good teacher. He works them hard. He’s got a good way about him. He’s positive but demanding. I think all those guys are taking well to him and to the teaching. And I think we have a good, tight-knit group in there that work together and prove that they can be good.”
No to joint practices
After working out with the Jaguars a year ago, Zimmer said no to holding joint practices this summer.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I had one team call me and I thought about doing it with them. But sometimes it’s just good to get in and get with your own guys and try to become a team and try to build unity and chemistry and just work at our tempo and our pace, and not worry about catering to [the other team].”
Depth chart released
The Vikings released their first depth chart. There were no surprises. For the record, Kevin McDermott still is listed ahead of rookie seventh-round draft pick Austin Cutting at long snapper.