Sharrif Floyd said Thursday that he is starting at nose tackle on Sunday against Seattle as Linval Joseph recovers from a foot injury that forced him to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
“It’s my first start at nose,” said Floyd, who normally starts at the Vikings’ three-technique tackle spot. “But I’ll be OK. I’m ready.”
With Floyd at the nose, Tom Johnson will start at three-technique for the fourth time this season. The Vikings went 3-0 earlier this season with Johnson starting alongside Joseph while Floyd recovered from an ankle injury and surgery to remove loose cartilage in his knee.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a blow because there is no drop-off with our defensive line and how we play what we play,” Floyd said. “We all understand what’s going on. We all know the different techniques. We just have to play hard.”
Seattle comes to TCF Bank Stadium ranked second in rushing attempts with 334. The Vikings are third with 331 carries, but the teams’ running styles differ with Adrian Peterson healthy and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch sidelined because of hernia surgery.
“They run the ball a ton,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “But it’s not all hardball runs. They’ve got the zone read and the option and things like that.”
Missing Joseph won’t help. With 54 tackles, he is second in the league among defensive linemen behind Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (55).
Also, the last time the Vikings played a run-oriented team, Joseph won NFC defensive player of the week honors. He had eight tackles, half a sack, four quarterback hits and three tackles for loss in an overtime victory over the Rams. His last tackle for loss set the tone for the overtime three-and-out stop.
Floyd, however, is rounding back into form three games into his return from injuries. In the last game before he was sidelined, Floyd himself was dominant in a win over the Chiefs. He had half a sack, five quarterback hits and two tackles for loss, including one on fourth down in the red zone.
As for starting on the nose, Floyd has been touted for his versatile NFL skill set going back to when he was projected by many as a top-five draft pick in 2013. Floyd dropped to No. 23 before the Vikings selected the 6-3, 311-pounder.
“I can be extremely heavy and powerful if I need to,” Floyd said. “And I can be fast and elusive if I need to. Whatever they need me to do, I can get it done. That’s why I’m not under stress or anything.”
Meanwhile, Seattle’s offensive line has only begun to settle in recently from an offseason that saw two starters leave via free agency and starting center Max Under traded to New Orleans for tight end Jimmy Graham. All of that contributed to Russell Wilson being sacked at least four times in seven of the first eight games.
Since then, Seattle hasn’t given up more than two sacks in four straight games. A significant amount of credit has been given to center Patrick Lewis, who will be making his fifth start of the season Sunday.
Lewis, who made four starts a year ago, was the presumed starter when Unger was traded. But he was beaten out by Drew Nowak, a former defensive tackle who was switched to offensive line as an undrafted rookie with the Jaguars in 2012.
Nowak lasted five games before being benched for inconsistent play and an inability to make the correct protection calls. He started two more games later on when Lewis was injured but was released Tuesday.
The Vikings will activate 6-5, 335-pound nose tackle Kenrick Ellis for depth purposes. He has played in four of six games since being signed but hasn’t played more than 14 snaps in a game.
When the Vikings go to their nickel sub package, they can stay with Floyd and Johnson or slide a defensive end inside.
“Playing the nose is a different technique for sure,” Floyd said. “It’s less get off, less speed out of my legs. It’s more using my hands and staying in my gap.
“But I can’t wait. These guys want to come in and run the ball, and we got to be ready to stop them. Linval’s a great guy, great teammate. Hopefully, he gets back soon. But I have to play the position until he gets himself together. Let’s see how it goes.”