‘Lot to be excited about’ for NT Joseph
When Mike Zimmer came to the Vikings in 2014, one thing that became immediately clear was that he was going to bring in players that would fit his scheme so he could run his defense the way he wanted it run.
One of the first players the Vikings signed when free agency began was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a player Zimmer brought in because he was confident he would be a glove fit in his defense. Joseph’s first training camp didn’t last long, as he was hit by a bullet at a Minneapolis night club that put him on the shelf for the remainder of the preseason.
In many respects, this is something of a new experience for Joseph to be in his second training camp with the Vikings and being healthy enough to make daily contributions.
“I’m just really glad to be part of this, because I think we have a good thing going here,” Joseph said. “Right now, it’s going great for everybody. Most of us have been here a year. The biggest difference this time around is that we’re reviewing our defense, not learning it. That’s big for us.”
The biggest hurdle Joseph and his teammates faced was learning a new system on the fly. Coming over from the New York Giants, Joseph had learned things from Tom Coughlin and coming to the Vikings was a transition that tested his mettle – both pre- and post-injury. He sees a vast difference this season as he and his teammates are hitting the ground running much faster than they did a year ago.
“Learning the terminology was a big thing for us last year,” Joseph said. “The schemes had a lot of similarities to what we had run before with different coaches, but you had to learn the terminology and what each difference means. We all know it now. We’re able to just go out there and play football instead of trying to learn a lot of new things. Now we can try to perfect what we’ve learned over the last year.”
Like the team as a whole, the defensive line showed improvement as the season rolled on, to the point that Joseph didn’t want the season to end – “we were finally getting it,” he said. The difference he noticed most was that he and his linemates got a comfort level with one another that continued to grow as the year progressed.
He has witnessed the change and the ease with which the line has come together and continued to jell as a unit. While all of them were capable of making individual plays, everyone doing their assignments led to creating plays, either for themselves or their teammates.
“I felt that, as the season went on, we all bonded together and started playing better with each other,” Joseph said. “We took where we left off at the end of last season and brought that into the offseason program and continue to build on it. It’s a great feeling.”
Joseph is looking forward to the Vikings prospects in 2015, because, while a lot of the emphasis has been on the improvements made on offense, he’s convinced that defense will be the Vikings’ calling card.
A big part of continuing the improvement the team showed down the stretch last year will be maintaining a strong line rotation. When it comes to defenses, it all starts up front and Joseph believes the Vikings have what it takes to collapse running lanes and get pressure on quarterbacks with the front four, whatever configuration of players is out there.
With the depth the Vikings are building up front, Joseph believes this could be the year the franchise turns the corner and joins the conversation of the elite teams in the NFL.
“Every team would like to have a great rotation,” Joseph said. “To have that, you’ve got to have guys you trust and that know the scheme and exactly what they’re doing. Once the first rotation comes out, there’s no drop-off. That’s what we’re trying to build here and I think we’re getting there. There is a lot to be excited about.”
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