Joseph's absence creates room for Stephen

MINNEAPOLIS -- The absence of defensive tackle Linval Joseph, after a stray bullet clipped his left calf on Aug. 9, will apparently linger into a second preseason game. Joseph doesn't figure to play Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, and hasn't practiced with the team since he was shot as an innocent bystander at a Minneapolis nightclub following the Vikings' first preseason game.

"I know he’s here working every day. He’s a true pro," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "He’s staying up on what’s going on. From that aspect of it, I haven’t been given word when he will be back."

Joseph's absence has necessitated extra playing time for some of the Vikings' other defensive tackles, however, and one in particular -- seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen -- seems to be taking advantage of it.

Stephen played 42 snaps last Saturday against Arizona, getting the second-most playing time of any Vikings defender. He received first-team snaps at nose tackle and lined up in both the nose and three-technique spots. He's won praise from coach Mike Zimmer, Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, and the Vikings seem to think they could have a steal in the former Connecticut tackle.

Stephen has done a solid job at the point of attack -- to the point where Pro Football Focus ranked him the third-best run-stopping defensive tackle so far in the preseason -- and he's handled a broader assignment than he figured to have through this point with the Vikings.

"We played him at the three-technique, we played him at the nose, and for a guy who really hadn’t got a lot of reps at the three [technique],we thought he did a good job of what we were asking call-wise, technically, fundamentally," Edwards said after the Vikings' first preseason game. "He held up pretty good in there."

The Vikings could hold out several starters in their final preseason game on Thursday at Tennessee, but Joseph figures to play if he's ready. Stephen could continue building on his preseason resume, especially if the Vikings don't want to risk exposing him to waivers by trying to put him on the practice squad. Stephen, the 220th overall pick, could sneak onto the bottom half of the roster.