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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Back on the field, Joseph and Floyd will be two keys to Vikings defense

By Derek Wetmore

BY JOE OBERLE

MANKATO — Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense is often noted as being a unit on the rise. But, just like the offense had trouble in the passing game last season, the defense had difficulty stopping the run (ranked 17th in the NFL against the rush). Some of that had to do with the absence of interior linemen Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd, who missed games due to injury. Those injuries lingered into this spring and limited their time at OTAs, but the team is now pleased to have them back on the field in Mankato.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” Zimmer said after seeing the two players at the first walk-thru of the season at training camp. “Those two guys are good guys, good players—they’ve worked real hard to get back. I think Linval is really excited about getting going with the season, so it should be fun.”

Zimmer is right about Joseph, who missed four of the last five regular season games (and most of the fifth one) in 2015 with a toe injury—he is raring to go. Speaking at the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium last week, Joseph was champing at the bit for training camp to start, which seems rare for a veteran lineman.

“I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “We know where we stand [as a defense] and we know what we have to do. This offseason we pretty much kept everybody, and in the OTAs and offseason program, everybody hit the ground running. We were trying to pick up from where we left off. And I saw the work and dedication that everybody was bringing to the table, and I like it. I can’t wait to go to training camp to find out about our new team. I really can’t. I feel like it is going to be a special year.”

Floyd on the other hand, missed three games and part of another last season with knee and ankle injuries, and he, too, watched OTAs from the sideline this spring. Per usual on a Zimmer team, little is said about the injuries, but Floyd claimed himself ready to go, but not exactly with enthusiasm.

“I’m feeling all right,” he said. “We had a couple things to get over from last season, and we are just going to see where it goes.”

Having the pair in camp is indeed a big deal for the defense. During the offseason, Zimmer called Joseph one of the best he’s ever seen at nose tackle position, and other members of the defensive line are aware what it means to have the two players back.

“[It’s] great, man. Anytime you can see those two guys in there, they bring so much more to the game than just a presence,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Linval and Sharrif, the things they can do on the field as far as knowing the game, understanding the game, situations and just their physical presence, it’s always great seeing it out there.”

Even on the offensive side of the ball, the newcomer left guard Alex Boone can already see what a difference it will make in his game having to play against the Vikings defensive line every day in camp.

“[It’s] going to be huge,” Boone said. “They’re obviously known around the league for being a relentless group and a ruthless group, so when you practice against that every day, you go into the game and it’s almost easy. We need to bring them up and they need to bring us up and we need to compete and practice well. We’re going to have a good camp.”

Most of the focus has been on the offense—in the draft, in free agency and on the Internet. But Zimmer is not about to let up on his defense, as he sees plenty of room for improvement.

“A lot of areas,” Zimmer said when asked he wants to improve the defense. “We finished fifth in scoring, but some of that is offense controlling the clock—we ran the ball, and we were good in special teams. I go on what really I see all the time. We’ve got to change the mentality of our pass defense. [The] Quarterback Rating against us is too high. We haven’t been good in two-minute [situations], and we don’t have enough 2nd & 8, 9 or 10 situations. So we’ve got to do that and create more turnovers.”

It all starts up front, and Joseph, who has been around for seven years, is savvy enough to recognize it. Speaking to Joseph you can sense that he is not only a leader by his play on the field but also in the way he talks. He is not shy about explaining what he wants from the defense and the team this season. And any newcomers to the defense just might want to listen up.

“I want us to stop the run,” Joseph said with certainty. “I don’t want us to give up any 100[-yard rush] game this whole season. I want us to play better in the secondary. I want us to finish games. I want us to play together for the full 60 minute of games. And that’s what we want to work on in training camp—all the mistakes we made last year. We want to minimize that.”

If Floyd and Joseph can stay on the field this season, the Vikings stand a good chance of doing just what Joseph wants.

The post Back on the field, Joseph and Floyd will be two keys to Vikings defense appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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