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Harris gets additional work during Vikings practice without Smith

Second-year safety Anthony Harris appears in line for his third career NFL start.

Harris worked alongside safety Andrew Sendejo during Thursday’s practice, the third session this week without injured star Harrison Smith (ankle).

Harris, undrafted last year out of Virginia, previously started twice last season when starters were injured. He’s been active for all 12 games this season, but has played just 56 defensive snaps, fewest among safeties.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer previously started rookie seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse when Sendejo was unavailable earlier this season. Kearse was pulled on the first drive of his only start in Chicago after he took a bad angle on a 69-yard run by Jordan Howard.

Zimmer said Thursday he believes Kearse will be a good player down the road, but that he’s currently thinking too much. Harris’ experience has given him an advantage, according to Zimmer.

“At this point, it was funny in the preseason, [Kearse] was going and playing,” Zimmer said. “Now he’s playing a little tight, so that’s the difference in the way he’s been. He’s trying to be perfect all the time instead of cutting it loose.

“Anthony is a little quicker with understanding the different nuances of things he has to do. I think that’s a little bit of second year, first year.”

Veteran cornerback Terence Newman is also capable of playing safety in a pinch, as he did last year. However, as the Vikings secondary walked through coverages, it was Sendejo and Harris at safety with Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes lined up at cornerback.

Center Joe Berger (concussion) was not spotted at the start of practice after he was limited during yesterday’s session.

Also at Thursday’s practice, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) was seen stretching with teammates before leaving the field.

Getting healthy: Jacksonville could be the cure for Vikings

When it comes to the Vikings righting a 1-6 slide that has ruined a 5-0 start, the Jacksonville Jaguars could be the best medicine this side of a home game against Cleveland.

But don’t get too giddy, Purple fans.

The Denver Broncos still have a pretty good team that won a pretty significant trophy nine months ago. And they went to Jacksonville last Sunday and didn’t gain full control of the game until Von Miller caused a fumble by driving right tackle Jermey Parnell into quarterback Blake Bortles for a Broncos takeaway at the Jacksonville 29-yard line with Denver leading 17-10 with 1:27 left in  its 20-10 win.

Granted, Denver was starting rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch for only the second time, and the first time on the road. And he looked awful, completing 12 of 24 passes for 104 yards.

But the Jaguars’ fourth-ranked defense also played a role in Denver gaining only 204 yards while converting 1 of 13 third downs and punting 11 times.

With the Vikings weighing in at 26th in points per game (19.4), I wouldn’t be laughing too hard at the Jaguars ahead of Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.

Overview: Only the Browns (0-12) and the 49ers (1-11) have worse records than the Jags (2-10). Jacksonville lost its first three, won two straight and have lost seven in a row — scoring fewer than 20 points four times — heading into Sunday. They’re 1-5 at home and, hey, at least they beat the Bears in Chicago (17-16), something the Vikings weren’t able to do. They also went to Kansas City and challenged the Chiefs before losing 19-14.

To the tape: …

Top  thoughts while watching tape of the Jaguars’ 20-10 loss to Denver at home on Sunday:

—There’s no other way to say it. Bortles’ accuracy is awful. In this game, it dipped to high schoolish levels as he completed 19 of 42 passes for 45.2 percent. For the season, he ranks 29th in the league at 58.2 percent. Jaguars fans booed when his first pass sailed way over the head of tightly-covered receiver Allen Robinson on Jacksonville’s second offensive snap. Clearly, the fans who are left among the empty seats are tied of throws like that one.

—Speaking of the alleged home crowd. The first loud cheer of the game came from Broncos fans roaring their approval  when Jaguars left tackle Kelvin Beachum false started on Jacksonville’s third offensive snap. That led to third-and-12 and a three-and-out as the crowd chanted “Let’s Go Broncos!” So this isn’t exactly hostile territory the Vikings will be venturing into.

—On Jacksonville’s second possession, Bortles locks his eyes on one receiver, Robinson. Robinson was blanketed, but Bortles threw it anyway. Again, it’s way over his head. Punt No. 2.

—Bortles clicks just enough to make you think the third-year pro — a first-round pick in 2014 — might evolve some day. Early in the second quarter, he drops a nice pass between two defenders for a 17-yard gain.

—However, three snaps later, Bortles is facing third-and-2 from the Denver 29. He drops and has Walters uncovered underneath for the first down. But instead he forces a deep ball to Marqise Lee that sails over his head. The Jaguars have to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

—The Jaguars are an undisciplined group. Weakside linebacker Telvin Smith can be impressive, but on a third-and-long stop in the second quarter, he reached out and hit Lynch in the facemask. The roughing-the-passer penalty extended the drive. Jacksonville’s run defense, which had been strong up to that point, gave up 48 yards and a touchdown on five carries over the next six snaps. Broncos running back Devontae Booker gave his team a 7-3 lead with a great 6-yard burst that included a missed tackle by Smith at the line of scrimmage.

—Not all of Bortles’ league-high 15 interceptions are his fault. In the second quarter, he threw a ball 20 yards through the air to a well-positioned Robinson. But Robinson allowed cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to rake the ball out of his hands for the first of Bortles’ two interceptions.

—Another bone-headed penalty handed Denver a field goal and a 10-3 lead right before the half. Special teamer Alex Ellis, a rookie, hit the punt returner three yards out of bounds, giving Denver the ball at the Jaguars’ 43 with 47 seconds left in the half. Too bad plays like this will contribute to coach Gus Bradley, a Zumbrota, Mn., native, getting fired.

—Rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the fifth overall pick, looked very good in this game with two deep-ball passes defensed. Denver took a home-run shot to Emmanuel Sanders early in the third. Ramsey was right there to slap the ball away. Perfect position.

—Jacksonville was driving at midfield, trailing 10-3 in the third, when Bortles showed his youthful QB issues the most. With time to throw a short crossing route on third-and-4, Bortles clearly thought he had Robinson wide open over the middle. But, with all the traffic that close to the line of scrimmage, Bortles never saw cornerback Bradley Roby trailing Robinson. Roby undercut the route for a 50-yard pick-six midway through the third quarter.

—But Jacksonville’s defense kept Denver from running away. And speaking of running, Bortles is definitely a threat to run, and do damage in the process. He put the Jaguars back in the game by running twice for 29 yards and a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. First, he showed his grit on third-and-7 when he took off running and dived to the sideline, extending the ball inches past the first-down marker. Officials spotted him short, but Bradley challenged and won. Bortles then showed his speed in capping the drive with a 22-yard run after the middle of the field opened up for him on fourth-and-3.

—Jacksonville stayed committed to the run, even with running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) out, T.J. Yeldon a bit hobbled by an ankle injury and Denard Robinson lacking much power. They ran the ball 38 times for 154 yards (4.1), which is something to keep an eye on because of how inconsistent the Vikings’ run defense is. Ivory could return this week. He was limited in practice on Wednesday.

—Jacksonville forced three of Denver’s 11 punts in the fourth quarter. That kept feeding the ball back to the offense, but Denver’s defense is pretty good in its own right. Miller used the right tackle to strip the ball from Bortles for the turnover at the 1:27 mark.

Key stat: Minus-18 vs. Plus-13

The first number is Jacksonville’s league-worst turnover margin. The second number is the Vikings’ second-ranked turnover margin. The Jaguars are tied with the Jets and Chargers for most giveaways (25). Their 15 interceptions thrown are the second-most behind the Jets (18).

12:00 PM, 12/11 (FOX)
Minnesota 6-6
Jacksonville 2-10

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