A Battle of Sack Masters Looms for Vikings
When the Minnesota Vikings take the field on Sunday against the Los Vegas Raiders, there will be plenty of eyes on the quarterback position. After an ugly showing on Monday Night Football, Kevin O’Connell needs much more from his signal caller. It’s the edge rushers that may steal the show, however.
A Battle of Sack Masters Looms
Coming into the season, Danielle Hunter made it clear he wasn’t interested in playing for the Vikings on his current contract. After getting a reworked deal flush with incentives, he has made good on every bit of the talent he possesses. Now, with a career-high in clear view, he has to be licking his chops at a chance to bring down Aiden O’Connell.
It’s not just a one-sided affair, though, because Maxx Crosby exists for the Raiders. The talented tattooed terror comes off the edge in silver and black, looking to sack opposing quarterbacks as well. Having already made two Pro Bowls during his career, Crosby is just a single sack shy of tying his career high. With 11.5 sacks to his credit this season, he should blow by the 12.5 mark he put up just a year ago.
For both players, the opportunity to bring down the quarterback is one that they will relish on Sunday. Las Vegas is middle of the pack regarding protecting their passer, and O’Connell has taken 13 sacks in the six games he has played this year. Minnesota’s offensive line has done a better job in 2023, and Josh Dobbs’ mobility helps, but he has already been brought down eight times in just four games with the Vikings.
This season, it is surprising how well Hunter has fared for Minnesota. It’s certainly a positive that Brian Flores has stepped in and been an incredible upgrade as a defensive coach over Ed Donatell. Last year, though, Hunter had the benefit of Za’Darius Smith wreaking havoc on the opposite side of him, and that hasn’t been the case this year. Marcus Davenport was brought in to fill that role but has only consistently taken down the trainer’s table.
Similar to Hunter, it’s been the Crosby show in Las Vegas. Behind his 11.5 sacks, the next closest teammate is Robert Spillane, who has 2.5 to his credit. Obviously, the Vikings will focus on keeping Crosby at bay, and it is really only him they have to worry about from a pass-rushing perspective. The fact that Crosby has been able to get home so often without another legitimate threat alongside him is a testament to his abilities.
While the offensive output on any given Sunday is often the highlight of a football game, fans will be treated to a show from a couple of sack masters if they want to watch the game in the trenches. For the Vikings to emerge victorious, they will need to put consistent pressure on the young quarterback for the Raiders, and forcing him into some bad decisions will go a long way.
After an ugly offensively showing their last time out, Minnesota needs a much better performance as Justin Jefferson returns. Not allowing Crosby to interrupt will be a good place to start.
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.