Stephen far from satisfied with his progress

Shamar Stephen appeared to have an impressive year for a seventh-round pick, but the Minnesota Vikings nose tackle isn’t satisfied with his play from last year or the first preseason game.

A year ago, Shamar Stephen fell to the Minnesota Vikings in the draft and they were able to select him in the seventh round. Not much was expected out of the rookie originally, but he was able to see the field as a rotational player and eventually a starter, filling in for Sharrif Floyd when he got injured.

Most people would consider that rookie season a success for a seventh-round pick, but Stephen wasn’t satisfied with it. His stats weren’t what he was looking for at the end of the season, recording 23 tackles and no sacks.

Stephen has been working hard this offseason to improve his game and so far it has showed. The second-year defender was the team’s leading tackler in their first preseason game, recording five tackles and a sack. He has also been winning his one-on-one battles consistently during training camp and he credits it all to hard work.

“I just worked on overall just all my techniques,” he said. “Just working on my hand placement, get off, attacking, stay on my angle, doing the right thing and staying on track. So I worked on overall pass rush, run defense, so working on my technique really paid off.”

Even though he had a good first preseason game, he believes he should have done better, saying that performance was “OK.” He feels as though he made too many mistakes and he wants to be able to fix that by the next preseason game this Saturday.

The defensive tackle had to miss a to miss time at the start of training camp because of an injury. While he was out out, he decided to shadow Sharrif Floyd and wanted to learn as much as he could from him. Now he is back, but the learning process isn’t done for him. He still tries to learn from the veteran every day and hopes that it will help improve his play on the field.

“Just working on seeing how they perform, seeing how they just (are) so detailed with their rush, with their hand placement, technique, get-offs, angles and stuff like that,” Stephen said. “Overall, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from veterans.

“I just want to improve how I play and just no mental errors, no mistakes,” he said. “Just be technically sound, be fundamentally sound and just play ball.”

A player’s role will change from year to year, and even though he played with the starters on a fairly consistent basis a year ago he cannot simply settle down expecting that to happen. Truth is, he doesn’t know if he will fit into that same role when the regular season rolls around, but he hopes he does.

Ultimately that decision belongs to the team’s head coach, Mike Zimmer. Stephen understands that and knows that all he can do is put his head down, work hard and do his best to improve the way he plays.

“I just want to improve how I play and just no mental errors, no mistakes,” he said. “Just be technically sound, be fundamentally sound and just play ball.”

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