Linval Joseph's standout 2015 season drew the attention of many around the league, including his fellow players who voted him as the 76th-best playerin the Top 100 Players of 2016.
The Vikings defensive tackle recently earned even more praise, as Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus said Joseph has one of the NFL's 10 most unstoppable forces — his power.
Renner's article mentioned Joseph's dominant Week 9 performance against the Rams, a game in which he generated constant pressure in the backfield. The article also showed a clip of Joseph using his strength to toss aside a Rams linemen.
It took a while for Joseph to realize his raw potential, but now that he has, no nose tackle can match his proficiency against both the run and pass. Joseph had a ridiculous 39 reps (at 225 pounds on the bench press) at the combine back in 2010, despite having long, 34.5-inch arms. He now uses that strength to bench press centers and guards. No game of his (or any other nose tackle last season, for that matter) was more impressive than Week 9 against St. Louis, where he collected seven stops and an 11.4 overall grade (by PFF).
Joseph played 12 games in his second season with the Vikings, finishing with 71 tackles (43 solo), eight tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries and one-half sack.
Sports Illustrated: Smith is Vikings "most irreplaceable player"
Harrison Smith signed a multiyear contract extension Monday morning that will keep the Vikings safety in Minnesota for years to come.
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated lauded the deal, saying Smith is the Vikings "most irreplaceable player," one who makes an impact each and every game.
Smith finally made his Pro Bowl debut last season — one year later than he deserved to — as he solidified his status among the game's top safeties. Pro Football Focus actually graded him out as the best at his position, ahead of names like Earl Thomas and Eric Berry.
Debate his actual place there amongst yourselves, but there is no denying how much he means to the Vikings' defense. Smith is the embodiment of what [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer wants for his scheme: an aggressive, intelligent, hard-nosed playmaker with the ability to take on a variety of roles. In his 29 regular-season games since Zimmer arrived in 2014, Smith has 158 tackles, seven interceptions, 12 pass breakups and 4.5 sacks.
The numbers alone don't tell the whole story, either. Top-shelf safeties come at a premium within the NFL not just because of what they accomplish but because of what they allow other players to do. Zimmer can roll his frequent double A-gap blitzes or turn loose his athletic group of linebackers knowing that Smith is on the back end to help clean up any messes.