Where Is Danielle Hunter?
This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings brought in Green Bay Packers edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. In doing so, he created a tandem with Danielle Hunter that could wind up being among the best in football. So far, though, Hunter has mainly remained non-existent.
When the Vikings signed Za’Darius Smith as a free agent, they envisioned an outside linebacker tandem that would wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was bringing in a new 3-4 front, and the two edge rushers would flank a talented linebacker duo.
The biggest concern for the Vikings when throwing so much money at both Smith and Hunter lay not in production but availability. Hunter was returning from a season in which he played just seven games due to injury, while Smith appeared in just one for the same reason.
Through four weeks, both players have been healthy (relatively speaking, considering Smith played Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints on a hurt knee), but the production has been a bit lopsided.
Hunter started the season strong, getting to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a sack in Week 1. Since then, though, he has yet to record another in the three weeks following. Through seven games last season, Hunter put up a whopping six sacks. On the other side, Smith has three sacks, recording one in each game this season, aside from failing to chase down the elusive Jalen Hurts in Week 3’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Smith has also recorded six tackles for loss compared to Hunter’s two, and he’s recorded five QB hits to Hunter’s lone tally.
There are a couple of caveats to this. The first is that we’re just four weeks into the season, and that leaves plenty of time for Hunter to get up and running. The second is that with the Vikings now having a legitimate dual threat up front, teams may be keying on Hunter after his impressive performance in limited action last season.
Either way, the goal of Minnesota’s defensive front should be to pressure the quarterback, regardless of who gets there. Right now, it’s Smith, but sleeping on Hunter’s ability will leave an opposing signal caller on their back soon enough as well.
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Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.