By Joseph Gunther
Charlie Johnson, LG #74
Hometown: Sherman, TX
College: Oklahoma State
Experience: 7 years
The Minnesota Vikings signed Johnson on Aug. 1, 2011. That became a precursor to a change in the offensive line personnel.
The expectation from the fan base and media was that the former Indianapolis Colt would be a versatile backup and insurance if Bryant McKinnie was not going to be healthy. The Vikings placed McKinnie on the non-football injury list to start training camp and Leslie Frazier did not specifically state the reason, but it was believed that weight played a part. One day after Johnson was officially a member of the Vikings, he became the starting left tackle when the team released McKinnie.
When the Vikings opened the 2011 season at the San Diego Chargers, it was the first time since 2002 that it began a season with someone other than McKinnie as the starting tackle. The Vikings’ offensive line struggled throughout the 2011 season, but Johnson and right tackle Phil Loadholt were the only two lineman to start every game.
Despite the season-long struggles, the Vikings ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns with 18. Adrian Peterson may have had a lot to do with that. But it doesn’t matter how good the running back is, he is not going to gain a lot of yards without decent offensive linemen.
The struggles of the Vikings’ offensive line prompted the team to shuffle the starting lineup, especially the left side. Johnson moved to left guard and Matt Kalil was drafted in the first round to start at left tackle.
Through two games, Kalil and Johnson have been a very good tandem. Johnson is the elder statesman with two years more experience than the next oldest starting offensive lineman (John Sullivan).
Prior to joining the Vikings, Johnson played five seasons for the Colts. He moved into the starting lineup at the beginning of the 2008 season at left guard. He moved to left tackle at midseason and started there until becoming a free agent.
During his time with the Colts, Johnson protected the blind side of Peyton Manning so well that the quarterback won the NFL MVP award twice. The Colts went to the playoffs all five seasons Johnson played in Indianapolis, including four AFC South division titles and two Super Bowl appearances (one win).
Johnson played his NFL rookie season with the Colts when Frazier served as the defensive backs coach. Frazier joined the Vikings as the defensive coordinator the following season.
Prior to being selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in 2006, he was a college teammate of Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams at Oklahoma State. Then-Oklahoma State head football coach Les Miles signed the 6-foot-4-inch, 260-pound tight end from Sherman, Texas in the class of 2002.
Johnson recorded four touchdown catches as a tight end before new head football coach Mike Gundy moved him to the offensive line for his senior season in 2005.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.