One Unsung Vikings Veteran Has Quietly Arrived

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No Marcus Davenport? It’s fine.

That’s the mindset from Minnesota Vikings fans in the last few weeks, as veteran EDGE rusher D.J. Wonnum has emphatically arrived in the last six games.

One Unsung Vikings Veteran Has Quietly Arrived

When Davenport hit the shelf in mid-October, Wonnum’s role spiked, on deck as “the other guy” next to Danielle Hunter and tasked with effectuating a pass rush. And he’s done just that and then some.

One Unsung Vikings Veteran
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Before 2023, Wonnum was known as a situational pass rusher who oddly seemed to terrorize the Chicago Bears — and that team only. There was no explanation for it, but it was true. Now, however, Wonnum browbeats all quarterbacks, not just those playing at Soldier Field.

Too, Wonnum has become adept at stopping the run, another trait not entirely evident from 2020 to 2022. Heading into Week 10 versus the New Orleans Saints, Wonnum’s run-stuffing grade from Pro Football Focus was actually higher than his pass-rushing score, a backward situation, at least for Wonnum’s typical performance.

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And the Vikings will take it. For a few years before Brian Flores took over in 2023, Minnesota’s rush defense curiously struggled, down the stretch of Mike Zimmer’s tenure and during the one year of Ed Donatell in 2023. For now, those woes are gone.

After the Vikings triumph over the Saints Sunday, head coach Kevin O’Connell mentioned Wonnum, “D.J. has been as consistent as any player on our football team.”

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In 10 games, Wonnum has notched 38 total tackles, 11 QB hits, 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. Not bad.

“And Danielle has been outstanding, but I think D.J. has fed off that as well. We ask him to do a lot of different jobs, and he just keeps doing it week after week,” O’Connell added.

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While Davenport’s return will be welcomed before too long — he’s eligible to return from injured reserve this week — Wonnum won’t be subtracted from the lineup. So far in 2023, Wonnum has played 79% of defensive snaps, finding playing time even when Davenport was healthy.

Realistically, Davenport won’t return immediately, so Wonnum should have a clear path to more starts indefinitely. But when Davenport is ready, the Vikings will have double the pass-rushing oomph.

Wonnum, 26, is a free agent in four months.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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