Kirk Cousins Has Big Plans for Unsung WR

Kirk Cousins Has Big Plans for Unsung WR
Dec 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bisi Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s not Whop Philyor, Alexander Hollins, or Dede Westbrook. And it’s not even Chad Beebe.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has big plans — of the bounceback variety — for wide receiver Bisi Johnson in 2021. Johnson missed all of the 2021 season with a torn ACL.

Johnson, 25, returns to the Vikings in 2022 on the final year of his rookie contract. Drafted from the 7th Round in the 2019 NFL Draft from Colorado State, he made a moderate impact as a rookie, snagging 31 receptions for 294 yards and three touchdowns. And he did so rather unexpectedly.

Cousins was asked about Johnson this week by the Star Tribune, and he stated, “I remember thinking in Year 3 he was going to take a big step and really show up. Then, unfortunately, tore his knee in one-on-ones over here in training camp. I’ve always had a high opinion of him, and I do think in Year 4 here I expect him to have a very productive year and provide a great deal of depth for us.”

Unsung Vikings WR Returns to Action
Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bisi Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

A 53-man roster spot isn’t a given for Johnson this season, though. He must earn it. The team he last played for, the 2020 Vikings, aren’t the same at wide receiver anymore. Since Johnson’s last appearance on a football field, K.J. Osborn emerged as the team’s sure-fire WR3, Ihmir Smith-Marsette blossomed as a fringe WR3-WR4 candidate, and Jalen Nailor was onboarded this April from the latest draft.

Thankfully, new head coach Kevin O’Connell’s teams have a history of rostering six WRs heading into a season. Theoretically, if Johnson looks sharp this summer, the WR section of the depth chart could reasonably look like this:

  • WR1: Justin Jefferson
  • WR2: Adam Thielen
  • WR3: K.J. Osborn
  • WR4: Ihmir Smith-Marsette
  • WR5: Bisi Johnson
  • WR6: Jalen Nailor or Dan Chisena
Justin Jefferson / Bisi Johnson
Nov 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) laughs with wide receiver Bisi Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson and other Vikings pass-catchers should benefit from an enhanced emphasis on passing the ball. Minnesota fired Mike Zimmer in January, a famous sponsor of run-first offenses. While the Rams, O’Connell’s former team, didn’t throw the ball at a Top-3-in-the-league clip, they did fling the pigskin more than the Vikings in 2021.

That bodes well for a receiver returning from an injury, especially when the team he last experienced showcased a running back as the offensive focal point.

Minnesota ranked 12th last year per Passing DVOA.

Johnsons played in every game for the Vikings during his first two seasons.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).