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Lunchbreak: Key Offseason Moves Helped Vikings to 6-2 Start

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The Vikings are tied for the second-best record in the NFL at 6-2 and sit alone in first place in the NFC North as they enter the bye this weekend.

Yet while Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has kept his team focused on a week-to-week basis, the foundation for Minnesota's success was laid in the offseason with a variety of roster moves.

With the Vikings at the midway point of their season, Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com reviewed at some of the key moves made by Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office and look at why they have paid off.

Coller wrote that Spielman's decision to fortify the offensive line has been the key to the Vikings success so far in 2017, as the free agent signing of left tackle Riley Reiff earned an A .

Reiff hasn't just been good, he's been a revelation at left tackle. The former Lions first-round pick has allowed zero sacks and brought a character and toughness that made him one of the most respected players in the Vikings locker room. His run blocking has been outstanding, and the Vikings can use him in any type of scheme, whether it's pulling or getting out in space on screens. Considering he plays the second most important position, Reiff has a good case for being the MVP of the offense during the first half.

Coller added that the signing of quarterback Case Keenum deserves an A- grade while right tackle Mike Remmers' strong play graded out at a B .

Coller said Spielman and his staff struck gold on draft day with a pair of trades to move up and acquire running back Dalvin Cook (an A grade) and center Pat Elflein (A grade).

In a historically good running back draft, some argued that Cook was the best all- around player. It didn't take long for the all-time leader in rushing for Florida State to prove that he belonged in the first round as he rushed 74 times for 354 yards, two touchdowns and caught 11 passes before suffering an ACL tear against Detroit.

A key piece to revamping the offensive line has been the former Ohio State standout. Most looked at Elflein as the best center in the draft, so it was surprising that he made it into the third round.

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Joseph doing the dirty work inside for Vikings defense

There are numerous strengths on Minnesota's defense, but none may be as important as Linval Joseph.

The Vikings mammoth yet athletic nose tackle is a key piece to the overall unit, and a big reason why Minnesota ranks fourth in the NFL in run defense (81.4 rushing yards per game).

ESPN writer Courtney Cronin recently wrote that Joseph's play is viewed around the NFL as the standard for his position.

Cronin wrote:

Joseph didn't become a Pro Bowler last season just because of how he took down ball carriers. The Vikings know that it's one thing to have a nose tackle who eats up his double-teams. It's another to have one who makes a ton of plays.

"If you're a D-line coach, at any level, and going to put together a coaching clinic tape, a lot of Joseph's clips would be on there," Matt Bowen, an NFL analyst for ESPN.com, told Cronin. "You're seeing an entire skill set."

Joseph can also rush the passer, as his 2.5 sacks rank third on the Vikings. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 as he tied a career high with 4.0 sacks.

Cronin added that Joseph's multi-faceted ability to both stuff the run and get to the quarterback makes him one of the NFL's best nose tackles.

The recipe for creating a perfectly balanced pass rush is having players who can win on the edge and force quarterbacks to step up in the pocket. Once they do, they're met by the interior linemen who are pushing the pocket.

That's what Joseph is best at. At his position, he isn't expected to reach double-digit sack numbers. His job is to interrupt the quarterback's throwing procedure — a ball disruption — which is equally important.

"It's not a sack, but it's a win," Bowen said. "It leads to an incomplete pass or the quarterback hitting the eject button and getting outside the pocket and throwing it away. You'll see more of that from him than sacks."

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