Danielle Hunter will make a major impact
By: Conner Wickland
- The Return of Danielle Hunter
Yes, Danielle Hunter stormed to the quarterback with an impressive sack on third down midway into the 4th quarter, giving the ball back to a Minnesota offense that was trailing by three points. But before that point, the Vikings’ defensive superstar was largely unseen. In fact, apart from this play resulting from a blown protection call, Hunter did not register a single QB pressure during the entire game. Despite playing 87% of the snaps on Sunday, Hunter’s former teammate Riley Reiff was able to take him out of the game.
While it’s unclear if Reiff was extra motivated to win in his revenge game against the team that released him, it was a rough start for Hunter. However, you can expect him to shake off the rust soon. This was Hunter’s first game back since missing the entire 2020 season with a neck injury. Still, the Minnesota Vikings were confident enough in his ability to give him a reworked deal this offseason, paying the defensive end a $5.6m signing bonus and the ability to make $20m next year to ward off a potential hold-out.
One game won’t tell the story of the Minnesota Vikings, and it definitely isn’t the end of Danielle Hunter’s career.
- Newfound Special Teams’ Dominance
One of the surprise storylines coming out of week one was the Vikings dominance on special teams. Surely, this would’ve been the main talking point had NFL officials overturned a Dalvin Cook fumble and allowed third-year kicker Greg Joseph to hit a game-winning field goal. Joseph came into the season with questions after not finding a long-term home with either the Cleveland Browns in 2018 or the Tennessee Titans in 2019. He put that all to rest after nailing a career-long 53 yarder at the end of regulation and then hitting it again after being iced by Cincinnati Bengal Head Coach Zac Taylor.
But Greg Joseph wasn’t the only success story to positively shock Vikings fans on special teams. The newly signed punter Jordan Berry impressed with long, arching punts – six of them going for 45 yards or more – often pinning the Bengals offense back out of scoring range. This included an overtime launch of 63 yards that stuck the Bengals at their own 10 yard-line. Despite only being signed nine days before kickoff, the 30-year old Jordan Berry is already solidifying his spot as the long-term punting option for the Vikings.
- The Emergence of K.J. Osborn
For years, the Minnesota Vikings have struggled to fill the wide receiver positing past their front two stars. In 2018, The Vikings leading wide receiver behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs was Laquon Treadwell, with 302 yards. In 2019, it was Olabisi Johnson with 294 yards. Last year, they swapped out Stefon Diggs for Justin Jefferson, but their third wide receiver Chad Beebe only fit into the mix with 201 yards.
The Vikings have used their tight ends to pick up the pace in years past, but they were dealt a huge blow when Irv Smith Jr was sidelined with a huge preseason injury that ended his breakout season before it began. The team responded with a high-priced trade for Jet’s Tight End Chris Herdon, but entered Sunday looking like the same old offense that would rely on Thielen and Jefferson to handle the load.
Instead, we watched K.J. Osborn make the most of his opportunities in this offense. He made a great drive-saving play on 3rd and 24 that set up the Vikings for an early Touchdown in the second quarter, and ended the day with 76. While it’s way too early to extrapolate from one game, Osborn would be on pace to end the year with 1,292 yards, a far cry from the sub-400 yard performances of Minnesota Wide Receivers in the past.