In the wake of missing all of 2020 with a neck injury and most of 2021 with a pectoral injury, Vikings star edge-rusher Danielle Hunter is looking to find his groove again after a great start to his career. The former LSU Tiger is unique because he is going into his eighth career season but is just 27 years of age. He still has a long career ahead of him. Minnesota Vikings fans and first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell should be fired up about that.
Hunter recorded at least 12 sacks in three of his five seasons prior to his injury-riddled campaigns. That includes back-to-back seasons of 14.5-sack seasons in 2018 and 2019. He was selected to Pro Bowls in those seasons, along with a Second-Team All-Pro nod in 2018. He finished fifth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Aside from his rookie season in 2015 and the 2020 campaign that he missed due to injury, Hunter has racked up double-digit QB hits in each season. This includes the 2021 season in which he played only seven games. In 2016, Hunter started zero games but played in all 16. He still recorded 12.5 sacks. He is a machine.
The Minnesota Vikings also signed another two-time Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro selection OLB Za’Darius Smith. Although Smith missed nearly the entire 2021 season with a back injury, he is healthy going into 2022. If Hunter and Smith can both stay healthy throughout the season, Minnesota is a great bet to have a top-10 defense. It will also help to have veterans like six-time Pro-Bowl FS Harrison Smith, All-Pro MLB Eric Kendricks and eight-time Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson.
Rest assured, Hunter will be a massive focus for opposing offensive lines. He is one of the great, forgotten edge-rushers in the league. In a division with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota will need all the help they can get on defense.