Vikings Have No Anxiety about Danielle Hunter

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Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings pass rush through four games has been limited compared to previous seasons under former head coach Mike Zimmer. In particular, Danielle Hunter’s output is skimpier, but the team’s defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is unfazed by it.

Hunter has logged four QB pressures in 2022, the 89th-most in the NFL. And Hunter is the second highest-paid player on the Vikings, so his current lack of pass rush raises eyebrows.

Yet, Donatell affirmed this week that Hunter’s quiet performance isn’t abnormal. In fact, he seemed to imply Hunter just needs time for acclimation to the new 3-4 defense. Donatell told reporters, “Every guy that has ever made this transition, his first month looks a lot like that. There’s a getting used to this role. It’s very, very normal.”

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s a peek at some of Minnesota’s pass-rushing statistics through Week 4.

Vikings Pressures on Opposing QBs,
thru First 4 Games of Season,
Since 2018,
Per Stathead:

2018 = 41
2019 = 41
2020 = 33
2021 = 41
2022 = 22

And these are the QB Hurries:

Vikings QB Hurries on Defense,
thru First 4 Games of Season,
Since 2018,
Per Stathead:

2018 = 20
2019 = 17
2020 = 16
2021 = 23
2022 = 8

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Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

So, if you’ve watched a Vikings game over the last month — you probably have if you’re reading this — a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks flushes out in the numbers, too. It’s not just your eye test.

Ordinarily at this time, when healthy, Hunter would be the driver of the Vikings QB pressure, almost singlehandedly keeping the defense afloat. Such was the case in 2021 before Hunter was lost to injury on Halloween night. But now Minnesota’s defense is humming along — in varying degrees of success — with Hunter in the lineup and the team’s defense whimpering. The Vikings have embraced the ultimate bend-don’t-break defense so far this year, ranking 13th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed.

Too, the Vikings defensive line has squared off against some of the top offensive lines in football, between the Packers, Eagles, Lions, and Saints (sort of for New Orleans — it was without guard Andrus Peat). Hunter is experiencing ample attention from opposing offensive linemen, and stellar ones, at that.

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Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, fans must wait and determine if Donatell is correct. Is Hunter just “taking a while” to adjust within a 3-4 defense? For 5.5 seasons, Hunter flourished in Zimmer’s famous 4-3 scheme. There’s an outside chance that a 3-4 isn’t his jam, which would be a bit odd.

And if a 3-4 defense isn’t Hunter’s forte, well, that could foreshadow the end of the road for him with the Vikings. That’s wildly unlikely but must be mentioned for context.

Remember, though, Hunter still possesses a 75.4 Pro Football Focus grade. Unless one believes PFF is lying, the man isn’t playing poorly, laying even more credence to Donatell’s theory.

Hunter and the Vikings take on one of the worst offensive lines in football this Sunday against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.



Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).