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Young and Old Options for Vikings at Injury-Riddled Safety Spot

The Vikings injury report includes four starters (Linval Joseph, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith), three reserves (Robert Blanton, Brandon Watts and Scott Crichton) and Antone Exum, Jr., who was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

Minnesota (8-4) will issue its final injury report of the week and travel to Arizona (10-2) Wednesday.

The rash of injuries at safety — Smith and Blanton were unable to participate Monday or Tuesday, and Sendejo was limited Tuesday — have created a need on the back end of the defense.

The Vikings had to shift Terence Newman to safety briefly against the Seahawks, have elevated undrafted rookie Anthony Harris from their practice squad and brought back free agent Shaun Prater.

Tim Yotter of Viking Update wondered if Newman's temporary shift could be a sign of things to come for the 37-year-old cornerback a la Oakland Raiders safety and former cornerback Charles Woodson, 39.

"Could be. I'd have to wait and see what happens though. I haven't gotten to that point yet, but at some point I'm pretty sure that could be an option for sure," Newman said Monday.

*Newman said his concentration this week will be at cornerback, despite playing some safety in Monday's practice in preparation for the Arizona Cardinals, who have the NFL's top-ranked offense. Zimmer said Newman "won't have to" play safety on Thursday.  *

Yotter also caught up with Harris this week to gather his thoughts on potentially debuting in the regular season against the NFL's top-ranked offense.

View photos of the addition to the Vikings 53-man roster, S Anthony Harris.

Harris, the three-year starter at Virginia who had 289 tackles there, went undrafted and signed with the Minnesota Vikings when the 2015 draft was over. Since then, he's been learning the finer points of Mike Zimmer's defense.

"He's very fine on details, not just knowing your assignment but knowing how the offense is going to attack us," Harris said. "We pressure a bit, so knowing where their hots are and knowing where they're going to attack us off different looks. It's just all about staying on your technique, knowing your assignments and playing fast and aggressive."

Stoppers missing

In his weekly look at deeper stats, Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune noted that the absence of Joseph from the start and Barr and Smith for more than three quarters of the game showed up against Seattle. The trio has combined for 76 stops, Vensel wrote:

The Vikings did not have Joseph, their standout nose tackle, against the Seahawks and then they lost both Barr and Smith, their versatile outside linebacker and free safety, in the first quarter. They could be without all three against the Cardinals, which would not be ideal. Barr and Joseph rank first on the Vikings in [Pro Football Focus'] defensive stops statistic — not to be confused with tackles — with 35 and 26, respectively. And Smith is not far behind with 15. That represents a quarter of the team's stops overall.

Opposing view

Bob Baum of the Associated Press notes that four rookies have helped the Cardinals significantly this season.

Running back David Johnson leads the team in touchdowns and wide receiver J.J. Nelson is a lightning bolt of a big-play threat. And on defense, nose tackle Rodney Gunter and outside linebacker Markus Golden have starting roles.

Three of them are from schools outside the Power 5 conferences — Johnson from Northern Iowa, Nelson from Alabama-Birmingham, Gunter from Delaware State. The exception is Golden, who played at Missouri.

Johnson is at the top of the rookie list. The third-round draft pick moved into the starting role with injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. In Sunday's 27-3 win over St. Louis — Arizona's sixth victory in a row — Johnson rushed for 99 yards, in 22 carries, and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. He has nine TDs this season — four rushing, four receiving and one kickoff return.

"He's an explosive player," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "He's got size, he's got speed, he can catch. The sky's the limit for that guy."

Three Quarters Down

With 12 games played and four to go, Kevin Boilard takes a look at the race for the division title for Fox Sports North.

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