Vikings defender on the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ radar

Vikings defender on the 'Comeback Player of the Year' radar

December 23, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) was tackled by the Minnesota Vikings defensive end Daniel Hunter. Compulsory Credit: Brace Hemelgarn – USA Today Sports.

In 2019, the Minnesota Vikings became the youngest player in NFL history to record 50 sacks (25 years, 40 days old) in the career of EDGE racer Daniel Hunter. Now, three years later, Hunter is waiting Come back Player of the Year.

Beginning in the summer of 2020, Hunter was plagued by a number of injuries, both of which ended before the season. During the summer before the 2020 season, he hit his neck, causing him to miss all epidemic seasons. After that, Hunter returned in 2021 but played only seven games against the Dallas Cowboys on Halloween night, tearing his pectoral muscles.

Hunter’s injury is the same as the Vikings’ win-loss record. Former head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense was not the same without Hunter. From 2015 to 2019, firmly on the defensive mix with Hunter, Minnesota defensive EPA / Player took first place in the NFL. In 2020, without Hunter, the Vikings dropped to 25th on the same metric.

Daniel Hunter
November 25, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and defensive end Daniel Hunter. Compulsory Credit: Harrison Burden – USA Today Sports

The difference was not an external one. Before Hunter lost in the 2021 season, Minnesota was sixth in the NFL in defensive EPA / play (weeks 1 through 8). Starting at Week 9, without Hunter, Zimmer’s defense sank again, this time at 23rd (Weeks 9 to 18).

Hunter will try to recover with new coaching staff this season, as Zimmer was sacked in January. With a fancy new 3-4 defense led by defensive coordinator Ed Donatel, Hunter will team up with free-agent signer Jaderius Smith to oppose quarterbacks in September.

And Hunter’s comeback Player of the Year prospects are somewhat remarkable. Per Covers.com, Hunter Hall to win a +1,200 Maniline Award. He is the 11th potential candidate for this honor.

Covers.com

Interestingly, Hunter is the only defensive player in the top 13 CoverIts odds to make a list. Next up is Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters at +1,400.

Missing from list? Za’Darius Smith mentioned above. He, too, embarked on a return tour, fleeing the state of Wisconsin for Minnesota in 2022. Smith missed most of the 2021 season due to a back injury, hoping to regain his 2020 performance but this time with a different NFC North team.

The last four CPOY winners were quarterbacks, so there were ups and downs between Hunter and Smith.

  • 2021 = Joe Twelve
  • 2020 = Alex Smtih
  • 2019 = Ryan Tanhill
  • 2018 = Andrew Luck

Hunter and Smith begin their return tour against the Packers on September 11 at US Bank Stadium. According to most sportsbooks, Green Bay favors two points.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to her daily YouTube channel, VikesNow. She Hosts a podcast With Bryant McKinney, which airs every Wednesday Raun Sai And Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking Fandom dates back to 1996. Listed Criminal Pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (Band).

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