When the Vikings went out in free agency during the offseason, they knew they weren’t going to have Kevin Williams coming back and, given pressing needs at other positions, the likelihood of selecting a defensive tackle early in the draft wasn’t high on the priority list.
Instead, they opted to use the free agent route to pick up Linval Joseph from the Giants. Joseph was excited about the chance to get a new start in Minnesota and made it clear early on that he was a strong advocate of the new defense being installed by Mike Zimmer.
While the Vikings have struggled the last two games to get points on the board, the defense has been coming together and Joseph has been a big part of that.
Asked what he feels has been the turning point for him this season, Joseph said it is his learning the defensive concepts that are in place and getting a better handle on his role within the defense, from the classroom film study to taking what the coaches are teaching and making a practical application of it on the field on game day.
“The whole scheme,” Joseph said. “Every day I’m trying to get better and do the little things. Every day I just want to get better in class.”
Joseph suffered a setback during the preseason when he was an innocent bystander at a shooting in a Minneapolis club in which a bullet went in and out of his calf. It pushed back his progress, but as the season has progressed and he has become more comfortable with Zimmer’s defensive mindset, he has noticed the improvement both in his understanding of the system and seeing how what he is learning is making him a better player.
“I feel like every week I get a little better,” Joseph said. “This league is great because every day you learn something new and you can master your craft. You can never learn too much.”
Zimmer has noticed Joseph’s improvement, which has been a necessity. He leads the Vikings defensive tackles with 20 tackles and has played more in Zimmer’s rotation system than any of his fellow interior linemen.
As a teaching point, Zimmer has emphasized getting defensive linemen in position to make plays and not trying to do too much and make the big play. More times than not, when that happens, tackles get missed. Joseph has grasped the fundamentals of Zimmer’s defense and the coach is pleased with the results that are showing up on the field.
“I think he did a great job of defeating the blocker before he was trying to find the football,” Zimmer said of Joseph’s last game. “(He’s) getting his hands on the blocker instead of, earlier in the year, he was looking to make a tackle as opposed to winning his matchup and then trying to find the ball.”
Joseph agreed with Zimmer’s assessment. It took some time for him to buy into the schemes that the Vikings use with their defensive linemen, but, once he figured out that the concepts the Vikings have been drilling into their players are working, he has noticed the improvement and is happy with the results.
He dismissed the notion that he lost his edge or wasn’t in peak condition after the calf injury sidelined him for three weeks of the preseason. Instead, he believes the system works and that the only way to make the sort of incremental improvement he has made is through hard work, film study and thorough preparation.
“The key is just trying to get better every day,” Joseph said. “It’s not about being out of shape or not ready. It’s just trying to get better every day. You’ve got to master something and you need time to master it. That’s what it is.”
Joseph was praised for grading out well in the Detroit game and being a presence in the middle of the Vikings’ defensive front. However, he isn’t patting himself on the back. While he has noticed the improvement, he recognizes that there is a long way to go and he’s looking to continue his improvement Sunday at Buffalo, where the Vikings will once again be matched up with one of the league’s best defensive lines.
“I felt I had a better all-around game last Sunday, but this week I want to pick it up and hopefully I’ll have another big game,” Joseph said. “I feel like every day I’m getting a little better at it.”
Nose tackle Joseph learning, improving
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