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Lunchbreak: Harris Keeping Even Keel Despite Gaining Starting Spot

Anthony Harris has been putting in work over the past month of the 2018 season, playing all 271 of Minnesota’s defensive snaps over the past four games.

Go back to Minnesota’s Week 8 game against New Orleans, and the Vikings safety has missed just four total defensive snaps in 324 plays. Harris has ascended into a starting role in place of Andrew Sendejo, who was put on Injured Reserve last week with a groin injury.

But even though Harris has seen his workload and role change midway through the season, Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press wrote that the 27-year-old is keeping the same approach no matter how many snaps he plays.

Mizutani wrote:

Has anything changed for Harris now that he’s the unquestioned starter?

“No,” Harris said. “My mindset is still the same. I’m still trying to come in there and make the guys around me better by being there to help whenever I can.”

Harris has taken the long way to becoming a key member of the Vikings defense.

He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2015 after a strong career at the University of Virginia. An injury in his final year with the Cavaliers may have hurt his draft stock but not the potential seen by the Vikings.

Harris was a key special teams player early on with the Vikings, but made eight starts over the first three seasons of his career when he filled in due to injuries.

Harris has thrived in 2018, recording the first three interceptions of his career, including two in Chicago. Harris also made one of the top defensive plays of the 2017 season, as he forced a fumble and recovered it at the goal line in a conference tilt against the Rams.

Mizutani wrote that Harris has made his coaches proud as his role has expanded in the NFL.

In the opening five games this season, Harris didn’t play a single snap on defense, making an impact by playing a major role on special teams. He was a jack-of-all-trades for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, someone he could play in pretty much any situation.

As Harris has played more defensive snaps, Priefer has watched with pride from the sidelines.

“The fun thing for me as a coach is getting to see these young men develop as special teams players,” Priefer said. “They are contributing on special teams, and they play at a high level, and then they contribute on offense and defense.”

CBS Sports: Vikings hurt by run defense in 2018 losses

The Vikings allowed 100-plus rushing yards on Sunday against the Patriots and trudged off the field with a 24-10 loss.

That’s a constant them so far in 2018, wrote John Breech of CBS Sports, as Minnesota has now lost all five games in which the defense has allowed 100 or more rushing yards.

Breech wrote:

If you can run on the Vikings, you're probably going to beat them. For the fifth time this year, the Vikings gave up more than 100 yards rushing, and for the fifth time, they lost. The Vikings seemed to be baffled by a Patriots game plan that included seven different players getting a carry.

Breech gave the Vikings an overall grade of a ‘C-minus’ for Sunday’s performance, which dropped the Vikings to 6-5-1 on the season.

Entering Week 14 of the regular season, Minnesota is still the sixth seed in the NFC postseason picture.

Breech added that although the Vikings trailed by just a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Minnesota’s offense couldn’t put together any late momentum.

Offensively, the Vikings ended this game with three disastrous possessions. First, they failed to convert on fourth down with just over six minutes left to play. Things only got worse on Minnesota's next two possessions and that's because they both ended with [Kirk] Cousins throwing an interception.

Pro Bowl Voting Update

Three Vikings players are among the top-three vote getters among their positions groups in the NFC.

Danielle Hunter is leading defensive ends in the conference and ranks third in the NFL.

Harrison Smith is second among free safeties in the NFC and third in the NFL.

Adam Thielen is third among receivers in the NFC and fifth in the NFL.

Click here to vote for Hunter, Smith, Thielen and their Vikings teammates.

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