Safety Tyrell Johnson is expected to start against the Cowboys, but he will be in a time-share with rookie Jamarca Sanford. Sanford replaced Johnson earlier in the season when Johnson was injured, and in the season finale against the Giants the two played a near-equal amount of plays on defense. Johnson has been identified as one of the defensive players that has been accused of sloppy tackling during the Vikings' December slide, which has led to Sanford seeing more playing time.
There are also lingering questions at cornerback, where Antoine Winfield and Benny Sapp are both practicing as though they will be the starting left cornerback. Winfield has been limited with a foot injury suffered back in October and had a difficult time in coverage in losses to Carolina and Chicago. Sapp played well in Winfield's absence and neither knows precisely what their roles will be. When asked if he expected to start on the outside or be used as a nickel corner, Sapp said he wasn't sure.
"I don't know from one week to the next," Sapp said. "I prepare for both and just do what the coaches want me to do."
Earlier in the week, the Vikings hinted that Winfield would play a greater role in the base defense Sunday, but, at the portion of Friday's practice that was open to the media, Sapp took the snaps with the first-team defense at left corner.
Brad Childress said Friday that the rotation at safety and cornerback is by design and will hopefully get the best out of all of the players involved. However, when facing their biggest game of the season, it does seem a bit strange that there are more questions than answers in the Vikings secondary.