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Finally, It’s Dantzler’s Turn

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When onlookers of the Minnesota Vikings checked the team’s first unofficial depth chart of 2021, and the document noted a “CB6” next to the name of Cameron Dantzler, mystery was afoot.

As a rookie in 2020, Dantzler registered the NFL’s best Pro Football Focus grade among rookie cornerbacks. And that type of budding stardom generally dictates a successful second act — or at least the chance to prove oneself. But early on for Dantzler, no such luck was evident in the lead-up to his sophomore campaign.

The summer was marred by turmoil for Dantzler, from a source not yet known. Dantzler was an afterthought when the Vikings signed veteran free agents Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland. Even when his rookie running mate, Jeff Gladney, was released by the team, Dantzler’s ho-hum summer stock remained idle.

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Preseason didn’t help Dantzler either. During the Vikings first home preseason game against the Denver Broncos, Dantzler was torched by the speedy K.J. Hamler in a game that was woeful on the whole for the Vikings.

Aug 14, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; K.J. Hamler (1) Cameron Dantzler (27) Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Dantzler was not high on Minnesota’s radar during the summer, and this moment shoved the cornerback even further down the depth chart.

Then, Week 1 hit with the Vikings traveling to Cincinnati for a heartwrenching loss. Before the game, Dantzler was deactivated and did not play a single snap against the Bengals.

Something was fishy.

The Mississippi State alumnus continued to experience very little playing time, explained by head coach Mike Zimmer in a capacity suggesting Dantzler must first improve on special teams before getting the nod in pass coverage. Meanwhile, the Vikings defense was struggling in the first two contests of the season. The 2020 version of Dantzler was needed for an ailing, jelling-on-the-fly defense.

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Finally, the Vikings broke through, defeating Russell Wilson’s Seahawks during Week 3 in another matchup where Dantzler saw zero defensive snaps. That led to this infamous and now-deleted tweet.

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Dantzler followed up his discontentment post with an amends tweet, to be fair.

After the win over Seattle, dealings steadily improved for Dantzler. And by improved dealings, he began actually seeing snaps on defense. With 113 defensive snaps to his name this season, Dantzler is the VIkings highest-graded corner per PFF with a 67.9 score.

The situation was so dire before Week 4 that he became the subject of trade rumors, chiefly to the San Francisco 49ers, according to the speculation mill.

But Dantzler is safe on the team now. Patrick Peterson was injured versus the Carolina Panthers, so by default, it’s Dantzler’s turn to take a crack at CB1. He just has to, seemingly out of necessity. The startable cornerbacks available on the roster in Peterson’s absence include Breeland, Mackensie Alexander, Dantzler — and then men like Harrison Hand and Kris Boyd for depth.

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The group deals with a daunting assignment in Week 8. When fully healthy, the Dallas Cowboys arguably possess the NFL’s best trio of wide receivers in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. A lack of Peterson comes at a gruesome time with nasty opponents on the schedule, including the Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, and Green Bay Packers.

Therefore, Dantzler must be productive. Aside from his first few career games and the preseason gaffe against Denver, Dantzler has been a steady pass-protecting asset in his young career. Apt performances in the next handful of games with no Peterson will solidify his role in the Vikings defense — after it was questionable during the first month of the season.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

The post Finally, It’s Dantzler’s Turn appeared first on Vikings Territory.





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