Coming off a year in which only one member of the Minnesota Vikings made the NFL’s annual top 100 list, it seemed certain that those numbers would jump this year. Adrian Peterson was viewed as a lock and strong cases could be made for linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Smith.
It seemed the only thing that could prevent defensive tackle Linval Joseph from the list was injuries that limited him to 12 games. But, when all was said and done, two Vikings were announced Wednesday night – Joseph at No. 76 and Smith at No. 73.
When he came to Joseph, teammate Captain Munnerlyn, who saw his play improve sharply in his second year with the Vikings, said that Joseph came into the 2015 season looking to dominate.
“This year he came in with a purpose,” Munnerlyn told NFL Network. “Last year, he felt like he didn’t have a great year. This year, he felt he was going to make the run defense a better defense than it was last year. If you look at the St. Louis game, it was unbelievable. For a defensive lineman to have four or five tackles for a loss – I think he led the team in tackles that game. For him to just dominate that game – he singlehandedly dominated that game – and helped us win that game.”
Munnerlyn was often in awe at the types of plays Joseph made last season. Constantly facing double-teams, Joseph not only was able to consistently blow up plays, but made it look easy.
“You look at some of the plays he made (last) year and it was unbelievable,” Munnerlyn said. “This is grown men that he is doing this to and it’s like ‘Wow!’ He’s putting those players in the gap and he’s making those plays.”
He also got some respect from opponents. Bears guard Kyle Long summed up what several Minnesota opponents learned the hard way in 2015 – Joseph is going to make plays regardless of how many blockers you put in front of him.
“Linval Joseph is a guy who I don’t think has had enough credit given to him the last few years,” Long said. “This year, he’s really made undeniable that he’s one of the top interior defensive players in the league. He’s not the guy that’s going to be talking smack just to talk smack. He’s extremely strong at the point of attack, nasty and wants to body slam when given the opportunity. He plays really hard. You put those three things together and he’s a terror across from you.”
While there may have been some question as to whether the missed time would hurt Joseph’s chances of getting selected, there was no doubt Smith was going to make it. In fact, some of his teammates thought this was an honor long overdue.
“He’s a straight baller,” Munnerlyn said. “I feel like he’s been deserving to be on this list. The things he does on the field are unbelievable.”
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has played alongside Smith for his entire career and has seen up close and personal the attributes he brings to the table, especially his old-school style of driving through the player with the ball.
“They call him Hitman for a reason,” Rhodes said. “He’s just going to go with his gut, he’s just fearless.”
Fellow selectee Joseph said that Smith isn’t just a heavy hitter, he’s one of the most intelligent game players in the league. He reads and diagnoses plays, which makes him doubly dangerous when the ball is coming his way.
“He’s one of the smartest safeties probably in the game right now,” Joseph said. “He’s going to be in the right place at the right time and he’s going to make plays just by being in the right place.”
Two Vikings that weren’t on the list last year earned their spots Wednesday night with their selection. The question now is how many of their teammates will end up joining them in the coming weeks?
- The Vikings found out they have a friend in former Cowboys head honcho Gil Brandt, who works for NFL Media as a senior analyst. He rated the top five offseason improvements teams have made. Brandt listed the teams he felt made the most improvement in the last two months-plus and listed just two NFC teams – Minnesota at No. 5 and Arizona at No. 4. Speaking on the Vikings, Brandt said, “The Vikings needed offensive help and got it this offseason. Free-agent additions Alex Boone and Andre Smith will bolster an offensive line that should also welcome back fully healthy editions of John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt (who both missed all of 2015 with injuries). That unit will be directed this season by Tony Sparano, who is a good coach. First-round pick Laquon Treadwell, meanwhile, looks like the chain-moving No. 1 receiver the Vikes have lacked these past few seasons. Put a No. 88 on his back and you'd think he's Michael Irvin. He's also a blocker like Irvin was, meaning he'll make the passing and running game better. He's exactly what the doctor ordered for coordinator Norv Turner. I liked Minnesota's draft haul, including cornerback Mackensie Alexander. I also like undrafted free agent Brandon Ross, who has a chance to be a really good running back down the road. Mike Zimmer is a special coach, and there is terrific cohesion in this organization, from the owners to the front office to the coaches. This was a good offseason for a team that I expect will repeat as NFC North champs.”
- The Vikings' proposed new headquarters in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan was expected to come to a vote from the Eagan City Council next Monday. However, due to a delay in review and approval of the plans from the Met Council, the matter will be tabled until June.
- Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant began his 12th annual garage sale Wednesday night at his home in Bloomington. He will once again be auctioning off family memorabilia as well as a lot of Vikings memorabilia. The garage sale will run all day today and Friday morning. Friday is also the coach’s 89th birthday.