Stephen probably won’t be a starting defensive tackle, which is good
Shamar Stephen spent 2014 thru 2017 with the Vikings to begin his NFL career. He then saddled up with the Seattle Seahawks for a season in 2018 before deciding to come back to Minnesota the following year.
The 29-year-old from the University of Connecticut is basically a Ford Taurus. Meaning he is certainly not a Ford Mustang (as Sheldon Richardson flashed glimpses of in 2018), but he is also not a jalopy either. Stephen is a serviceable three-technique defensive tackle who deserves to continue playing in a reserve role from here on out.
Certainly, this is not a disrespectful indictment of the man. He’s just an alleged three-technique lineman that does not force the pass-rush pressure as those in his position are assigned to do. Plus, he only had 21 tackles in 15 games last season.
Stephen’s exit from the starting lineup will make Minnesota’s defense better in 2020. Whoever the Vikings pluck from the current roster or remaining free-agent market as his replacement will probably create more pocket pressure than Stephen. After all, he played 579 defensive snaps in 2019 and he only managed to generate two quarterback pressures (two!). With Minnesota in 2018, Richardson racked up a total of 25 pressures.
On the current roster, the Vikings have Jalyn Holmes, rookie James Lynch, and Hercules Mata’afa as suitors for Stephen’s current starting spot. One of these men will probably get the starting nod over Stephen in 2020.
If Richardson manufactured 25 pressures in 2018 and then Stephen followed that up with only two in 2019, Minnesota should have equitable shot at finding a player who can achieve a happy medium. At the very least, increasing the pass-rush will bolster the performance of the Vikings defense in 2020.