Minnesota Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph had been one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the NFL for most of the season. After a year of learning a new defense in 2014, everything had seemingly come together for him and he was playing at a high level in almost every phase of the game.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, though, Joseph has been forced to sit out the past two games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals because of a toe injury. Even before he missed those two games he was limited in what he could do against the Atlanta Falcons as he dealt with the injury.
It is always difficult to replace the production a player like Joseph gives to the team. As the nose tackle, his primary focus is to be a run stopper by filling holes up the middle and taking on multiple blockers. By doing that he is freeing up other defenders to make plays on the ball carrier.
Sharrif Floyd has been the one that has been tasked with the duty of filling in at nose tackle and it is safe to say he has not been thrilled about the experience.
“Every bad thing you can think of is nose,” Floyd said.
The defensive tackle had a nice laugh after making that comment, but it was clear there was a lot of truth to it. Even though he already plays in the trenches, playing nose tackle calls for a lot more contact than he may be used to.
When Joseph is healthy Floyd will play the three-technique, which is usually more focused on getting after the passer. Joseph will primarily line up against the center or in the gap between the center and guard and Floyd will be split out a little wider.
That gives him more space to make moves in the pass rush, and while he still has to be focused in on the run game he usually does not have to focus on taking on as many blockers as Joseph has to.
That has changed the last couple weeks, though, and Floyd is getting a taste of what his good friend has to deal with on a week-to-week basis. It has given him a lot more respect for what Joseph does on the field for the team, but at the same time he cannot wait for his teammate to return to the field.
“Losing him has been huge over the weeks,” Floyd said. “I’ve been talking to him every day: ‘Please come back. I understand you’re out; I’ll give you my toe. Or at least give me 10 of your pounds because, boy oh boy, I respect your job.’ But outside of that I’m just praying for him. Hopefully he gets back and he’s healthy, but I just got to man up and do what the team’s asking me to do.”
Even though Floyd is not the biggest fan of playing nose tackle, he understands that it is his job while Joseph is out. He also understands there is no telling when Joseph will return, so he needs to be able to step up and play.
Floyd realizes how important these next three games are for the Vikings and wants to make sure he does everything he can to help the team come away with three wins and a playoff berth.
“Oh yeah, the light is definitely there,” he said. “It all depends on what we do and how we play and how we get it done. We just have to come out and play ball, nothing different. Nothing out of the blue, nothing out of the ordinary, just do what we know how to do and play hard.”