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Hawkeyes in the NFL Week 15: Vikings’ Jaleel Johnson Rising

December 17, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

While at Iowa, Jaleel Johnson paid his dues before breaking through as a menacing defensive tackle. It appears he’s followed a similar path in the NFL.

After two seasons as a reliable member of the Minnesota line rotation, the New York native has picked up his statistical production. It’s coincided with a Vikings’ surge.

During Sunday’s 39-10 drubbing of the Chargers in Los Angeles, Johnson (6-3, 316) produced a sack and a quarterback hurry. Minnesota has won three of its last four games with the third-year interior defender contributing 12 tackles (8 solo, 4 for loss), three sacks and four quarterback hurries.

Johnson stepped in for injured Linval Joseph for a Nov. 10 game at Dallas. The Vikings won, 28-24, with Johnson contributing two solo tackles during a then-high 43 snaps. He started the next week in a 27-23 victory against Denver where he recorded a season-best six tackles (4 solo, 2 for loss), a sack and a quarterback hurry in 48 snaps.

“He’s much better playing the technique,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Vikings.com before the Dallas game. “Like I’ve said before, he used to be a bull in a china shop. Now he’s playing the technique, he plays hard.He’s been playing good all year long.”

The Vikings selected Johnson in the fourth round of the 2017 draft with the 109th overall pick. He played five games as a rookie and was credited with one assisted tackle. Last season, he saw action in all 16 games and picked up 12 tackles and half of a sack. Through 14 contests this year, he’s chipped in with 23 tackles (13 solo, 5.5 for loss) and 3.5 sacks.

It mirrors his progression at Iowa, where he red shirted as a first-year player and then served as a back-up for two seasons. He moved into the starting lineup as a junior and then earned first-team all-Big Ten laurels following his senior campaign when he produced 7.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss.

Becoming prepared through hard work made him comfortable he would come through when tabbed to start the Dallas game.

“The only challenge is that my number’s been called, and I’ve got to go out there and do what I do and perform at a high level,” he told Vikings.com at the time. “Nothing special about it, nothing crazy … just do what I’ve been doing. There’s no pressure at all. I’m ready for it.

“I’ve embraced this since the day I got here. I’ve embraced the challenge and embrace the competitiveness of it. When your number is called, you have to be ready to go. That’s what we’re doing here.”

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Here’s a look how other former Hawkeyes performed in the NFL during Week 15:

-During Sunday’s Vikings’ win, starting left tackle Riley Reiff logged 54 snaps on offense and eight more on special teams. The Chargers played without defensive back/return man Desmond King, who was held out for an unspecified, non-injury related reason.

-Buffalo locked up a playoff berth for just the second time this century with a 17-10 victory Sunday night in Pittsburgh. Safety Micah Hyde delivered two solo tackles during 61 combined snaps on defense and special teams.

-Kansas City improved to 10-4 with a 23-3 win against visiting Denver in the snow. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens produced three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a half sack during 34 snaps. Position-mate Ben Niemann added three tackles in 26 snaps.

For the Broncos, rookie tight end Noah Fant continued ascending with two receptions on three targets for 56 yards. He missed some action after injuring his shoulder while being tackled on a 43-yard catch-and-run but did return. Linebacker Josey Jewell played two snaps. Casey Kreiter handled the long-snapping duties.

-Green Bay held off visiting Chicago, 21-13, Sunday with veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga seeing 59 snaps on offense and three more on special teams. Defensive back Josh Jackson contributed a tackle during 16 special teams snaps.

For the Bears, offensive guard James Daniels played 84 snaps.

-Atlanta pulled off a 29-22 upset at San Francisco. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn lined up for 44 snaps, the second most he’s played in game this season. He did not record any statistics.

Tight end George Kittle caught 13 of 17 targets for 134 yards on 61 snaps and moved ahead of some select company as a third-year player. He also delivered another memorable block, one he enjoyed.

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-After logging 111 snaps the last two weeks, which included a start at center, James Ferentz dropped back to nine snaps Sunday during New England’s 34-13 triumph at Cincinnati. Defensive back Greg Mabin played five snaps on defense and five more in special teams for the Bengals.

-Baltimore improved to 12-2 Thursday night with a 42-21 victory against the visiting Jet. Guard Marshal Yanda saw 54 snaps for the winners.

-Guard Austin Blythe played 73 snaps of offense and another on special teams when the Rams lost 44-21 at Dallas on Sunday.

-Tackle Mike Daniels participated in 14 defensive snaps and one more on special teams during Detroit’s 38-17 setback against visiting Tampa Bay.

-Rookie safety Amani Hooker was on the field for 10 defensive snaps and 21 on special teams during Tennessee’s 24-21 home loss to Houston.

-Guard Brandon Scherff was sidelined with injuries for Washington, which lost, 37-27, against visiting Philadelphia.

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