With veteran safety Madieu Williams set to return from a neck injury that has sidelined him all season, rookie Tyrell Johnson is about to lose the starting job he held for the first seven games. But that does not mean the second-round pick out of Arkansas State isn’t going to get on the field.
He will continue to have a role in the defense, playing the safety spot when the Vikings employ a dime package (six defensive backs) that they have used at times this season. In those situations, the plan is for Williams to play more like a corner. Williams played cornerback earlier in his career and is considered very reliable as a cover guy. Benny Sapp had played in the dime defense this season but the Vikings did not use it all that frequently.
Johnson also will be counted on to help the Vikings’ special teams. He had been used on kickoffs when he was starting at safety but now will play on all special teams.
Johnson’s seven-game audition certainly did not hurt him and there is a good chance the Vikings will have him starting opposite Williams next season. Veteran Darren Sharper is a free agent and at this point the Vikings have not talked to him about a new contract.
“I think I showed them that I’m reliable,” Johnson said. “If they need somebody to go in there I can do it. … I still have a lot of learning to do. But I proved to myself that I can play in the NFL, that I can do it and no task is too great.”
Both the Vikings and their opponent on Sunday, Houston, have issued injury reports. Here they are:
Vikings: LB David Herron (hip), did not participate; DE Ray Edwards (knee) limited participation; TE Garrett Mills (ankle), limited; WR Sidney Rice (knee), limited; S Madieu Williams (neck), limited.
Texans: WR Andre Davis (finger), out; RB Ahman Green (thigh), DNP; WR Kevin Walter (knee), full participation; S Dom Barber (hamstring), full; C Chris Myers (illness), DNP.