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Big Body of Work: Vikings DT Linval Joseph

Linval Joseph's bulky arms — the ones that help him take on two offensive linemen at once — slumped in front of him.

His powerful hands — the ones that fight through blocks and grab running backs to halt them like a brick wall — rested gently, one inside the other.

The sixth-year NFL veteran was outside his comfort zone, in the middle of reporters and cameramen who had recently taken note of the compliment that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer bestowed on the defensive tackle.

"I don't want to get too gushy here, but I've had a couple of really good nose tackles in my career, this guy may be the best," Zimmer said. "He's good, he's really good. He cares, he's tough, he's physical, he's got some pass rush to him when he wants to go. He plays blocks. He doesn't get defeated in one-on-one blocks. Every time we went back out on the field on defense in the second half [against Detroit] he'd say, 'Keep your foot on the pedal, coach.' I said, 'Yes sir.' "

Joseph understood the weight of the comments as high praise from a coach who's built his career by designing defenses with the intention of demolishing offenses.

He humbly, however, bowed his head before raising it back up and saying, "It's very nice to hear what Coach Zimmer said about me.

"We work very hard here. I'm just glad to get my recognition for good plays," Joseph said. "I'm just doing my job and when plays come to me I make them."

Joseph's dirty duties on the interior of the line may not always show up in the box score, but it is a body of work that benefits 10 teammates, who have been returning the favor.

The attention that Detroit's offensive line placed on Joseph and Tom Johnson helped Minnesota's other players blitz from multiple directions and resulted in 7.0 total sacks of Matthew Stafford.

Before Zimmer dives too deep into his blitzes, however, Joseph and other Vikings players must first stop the run.

After four seasons with a little more multitasking and helping the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLVI, Joseph's primary responsibility is stuffing the run.

"When I was with the Giants I did a lot of different things," Joseph said. "I played a lot of different techniques, but even here, I can still make plays, and it's fun. I can't wait to see how far we go. I have great feelings about this team."

Sometimes it's Joseph with the takedown, other times it's a teammate. Joseph has 35 tackles, including five for loss this season. The Vikings defense ranks 15th in rushing yards allowed per game, ninth in passing yards allowed per game, seventh in overall yards per game and second in scoring defense (points allowed per game).

"When everybody else is doing their job, it's making the ball stay inside and giving me time to make a play," Joseph said. "Other teams that don't have everybody doing their job, the ball gets outside, so there's no one to make the rally plays or the hustle plays. Since everybody is staying up and running to the block, it makes it easier to make plays. Right now I'm in the position to make plays, so I'm just glad that I can make plays that come in front of me."

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Joseph has been "very consistent in everything we've asked him to do."

"He's definitely a big cog inside, he's excellent in the run-game, he's getting push in the pocket in the pass game," Edwards said. "I think we're elated with where he is right now and just look for him to continue to keep getting better and improve. He's somebody that's definitely accountable from day-to-day, week-to-week that you can count on and don't have to worry about anything as far as him doing his job."

Joseph quickly developed a relationship last year with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd off the field, and they have been a dynamic duo on it. Floyd is currently recovering from ankle and knee injuries suffered against Kansas City, but Joseph and Tom Johnson worked well in tandem against the Lions.

"Everybody is my brothers, the whole team," Joseph said. "The D-line, we're together more so we have a special bond, but my bond is with the linebackers, with the corners, with the safeties, with the quarterbacks, with the running backs.

"We're all a family here, so when Adrian [Peterson] makes a big play, I'm going to get excited," Joseph continued. "When I make a big play, they're going to get excited. We're just one big family here."

Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn, who signed multi-year deals in 2014, have raised their level of play this season, thanks to extra experience in the system designed by Zimmer and Edwards.

"I just feel like my second year in the system, I'm just comfortable and open to being more athletic and making the plays that count when it's time to make them," Joseph said.

The 6-foot-4, 329-pound Joseph spent his first four seasons with the Giants, who tabbed him with the 46th overall pick, but he dealt with injuries last year. Joseph bounced back to showcase strength that earned him a Florida high school state weightlifting title.

"I think he's stepped it up coming from last year to this year," Edwards said. "I think you can see the improvement. I know he missed a lot of time last year with injuries and those things, but he's been more than solid this year. He's had an exceptional first half of the season."

Zimmer said that he's seen other veteran free agents boost their games in their second seasons. Joseph and Munnerlyn are in that category this year.

"Some guys, they step in and make an impact right away, but some guys have to get used to being on the field with new teammates and being around the organization and different things," Munnerlyn said. "I feel like me and LJ have settled in now. We have no excuses. I didn't make excuses last year, but we're settled in and are ready to take this team to another level."

Joseph and the Giants were heavily underrated against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. New York had finished the 2011 regular season at 9-7, but united their play in the playoffs. Joseph said he sees a similar continuity that should help the Vikings going forward.

"I just feel like right now we're coming together as a team," Joseph said. "That's the first thing about the NFL. Once you have a team that comes together and plays with one another, it takes you a long way. I think that's what we have right now, everybody's making plays, celebrating with each other and is just a big family here. I like the atmosphere. We

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