Why Is Danielle Hunter Being Slept On?
The Minnesota Vikings have flipped the script on their 2023 regular season, and there have been plenty of strong performances along the way. With Kevin O’Connell righting the ship for Minnesota, the Vikings are back in playoff contention. The defense, starting with Danielle Hunter, is a chief reason for the positive results.
Why Is Danielle Hunter Being Slept On?
The Defensive Player of the Year conversation has gotten underway at this point, and all signs have pointed to Myles Garrett. It’s all fine and well for the Cleveland Browns star to earn talking points, but it appears that Minnesota’s star EDGE, Danielle Hunter, is being overlooked. The Browns have an incredibly strong defense, and while Minnesota’s has improved, it’s not on the same level. Hunter, however, is.
Through much of the early portion of the 2023 NFL regular season, Hunter has led the league in sacks. He currently trails Garrett’s 13 by a single sack, but he remains in striking distance and has been worth every penny of the renewed contract. Through 11 games, Hunter has 12 sacks to his credit and has been shut out just twice. In Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Hunter racked up a ridiculous three sacks of Jalen Hurts, and he recorded a pair against Chicago in their first meeting.
When the Bears come to town on Monday night for primetime action, Justin Fields will again be under center. He started the previous matchup against Minnesota before an injury took him out and turned things over to Tyson Bagent. Hunter will have the opportunity to chase down Fields again, and with the Bears having a lackluster offensive front, there should be ample opportunity for him to add to his total.
There are plenty of different avenues for a player to push themselves into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, but for an edge rusher, the chief opportunity is by bringing down the quarterback. Hunter has done that plenty throughout his career, but it has never been more prominent than this season. With a career-best 14.5 sacks registered twice, he should blow by that number as he is within striking distance and still has six games to go.
It’s unlikely that either Garrett or Hunter chase down Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 sacks, but both could find themselves coming close. That won’t be a precursor to winning the award, but it will be hard to ignore the total if they continue to put up numbers. Another multi-sack game for Hunter could vault him back ahead of the conversation, and it’s silly to think he’s not being talked about more as a potential winner.
Coming into the season, Minnesota found themselves in a position to figure out Hunter’s deal yet again. Something that seems to be a constant negotiation, the talented edge was looking for more dollars, and at this point, it’s hard to argue he hasn’t earned them. After Za’Darius Smith forced himself out of the organization, Hunter was paired with Marcus Davenport. The former Saints pass rusher has failed to stay on the field and has largely been unproductive when out there. Thankfully, the Vikings have seen Hunter be healthy and incredibly talented while single-handedly carrying the load.
It remains to be seen whether the two sides can come together on a long-term deal, and it may not be wise as Hunter continues to age. That said, he’s definitely not hurting his negotiation stance by racking up sacks in droves, and each one continues to push the hypothetical price up. If he can add a Defensive Player of the Year award to it as well, the numbers will reach the stratosphere.
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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.