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Vikings Defense Preparing for 1 of NFL's Top Dual Threat RBs

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —It's a safe bet the Vikings defense will be locked in on No. 31 in white on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Cardinals running back David Johnson is one of the NFL's top all-purpose backs. His 215 total touches through nine games account for 46.5 percent of Arizona's offensive production.

"It's hard to compare him, but he does a lot of really great things," said Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. "To compare him to anybody, I don't know who plays like him in this day and age.

"He's definitely one of the top backs in the NFL right now," he added.

Johnson, a second-year player out of Northern Iowa, has racked up 1,213 total yards this season, the second-best total in the league.

His 760 rushing yards rank fourth, and he is sixth in the league with 175 carries. Johnson's nine touchdowns are tied for second-most in the NFL.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith said stopping Johnson on the ground is Minnesota's first priority.

"I think you have to start with running," Smith said. "That's how he made his name and really finds the hole well, hits it hard (and) drives his feet.

"You have to get guys there and wrap him up," he added.

But the Vikings also need to be aware of Johnson catching passes out of the backfield or when he's lined up as a wide receiver. Johnson has 40 catches for 453 yards, the same amount of yards as Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen.

Johnson's 40 receptions are second on the Cardinals behind wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

"We're going to have to do a good job with leverage on him," said Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards. "He runs all types of routes, especially when they open up the formation with him.

"He's out there, definitely a viable threat in the passing game for them," he added. "He'll be a tough challenge in the run and the pass."

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "A lot of times he's not lined up in the backfield when he's catching the ball. Sometimes he is. But yeah, he's a matchup problem."

Johnson's all-around game blossomed at Northern Iowa, where he had at least 175 carries and caught at least 32 passes each season from 2011-2014.

View images of the Arizona Cardinals key contributors on offense, defense and special teams.

He was a third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and tallied for 1,037 total yards in just five starts last season as a rookie.

Johnson, listed at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, had 19 carries for 92 yards and five catches for 31 yards in the Cardinals' 23-20 win over the Vikings last December in Arizona.

Less than a year later, Minnesota's defense will be tasked with taking on Johnson once again.

"He's a big back," Munnerlyn said. "You look at him and you're like, 'This can't be the guy wearing No. 31 who is running the ball like that.'

"We've got our hands full, but I know guys in this locker room are ready to step up to the challenge," he added. "They've got a high-powered offense, but we've got to get back to playing football like we know how."

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