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7th-Rounder Shamar Stephen Standing Out in Year 3

After Shamar Stephen impressed coaches as a rookie in 2014, the defensive tackle missed a majority of last season with an injury. Now healthy, Stephen is once again garnering attention. Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune **wrote about Stephen’s skillset on the line**.

Krammer referred to Stephen, who is listed as Linval Joseph's backup but recently spent time filling in for Sharrif Floyd as "likely the most important defensive lineman you don't know about."

Stephen doesn't possess Floyd's ultra-quick step at the snap, nor does he bludgeon ball carriers quite like Joseph. Even so, Stephen has climbed the ranks as the top backup behind a pair of defensive tackles who both underwent surgery last season. Not bad for a seventh-round draft pick entering his third NFL season.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Twin Cities media that Stephen is doing well and "is a big, strong guy that hangs in there and does a lot of dirty work." Zimmer said Stephen was missed last season and is welcomed back.

Stephen largely credits his parents for his work ethic.

"I think that goes a long way, because I came from a two-parent home, and they instilled great discipline in me, great respect and great work ethic," Stephen told Krammer. "Having respect for others and being able to perform and do the right thing as opposed to just saying it."

After strong 2015 season, Vikings defense keeps looking to improve

There's always room for improvement with Zimmer's teams, and even after a strong 2015 season, **Minnesota’s defense wants to keep getting better**.

The Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson said the Vikings were a bit rusty on defense in their first preseason game, allowing 193 yards in the first half in Cincinnati. When the Vikings traveled to Seattle, however, they held the Seahawks to just 106 first-half yards while sacking Russell Wilson four times.

"We were a lot better than (the opener)," Anthony Barr told Tomasson. "That's good. Any time you can improve on the week before is important. We still have a long ways to go, but I think (the Seattle game) was a good step."

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