EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Only a rookie, and the youngest player in the NFL, defensive end Danielle Hunter is already turning heads.
When asked about Hunter, Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he's seen considerable improvement from the rookie since the teams met in November.
"(He's) much improved from our first meeting. It's something that jumps off the video at you," McCarthy said. "It's just really his whole game. Like a lot of rookies, they improve as the season goes on, and we have some guys that are different players today than they were in earlier weeks.
"I think statistically, obviously, his pass rush, as far as his pressures and sacks," McCarthy continued. "I'm definitely impressed with Hunter."
Besides McCarthy, Hunter's progress has been noted by another head coach — his own.
Back in training camp, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer disagreed with the notion that Hunter was a project, saying he had a chance to make an impact right away.
"You just see flashes of things and hope they keep going forward," Zimmer said. "That's kind of what he's done. He shows flashes and then takes the next step and then the next step. If he continues on, then he has a chance to be a good player."
Hunter has 3.5 sacks in the last three games.
"It's all about just doing your job out there," said the 21-year-old Hunter. "It's not just about individual statistics."
In his three-year career at Louisiana State University, the third-round pick had a total of 4.5 sacks.
Hunter said others have mentioned the sack stat to him, but he hardly pays attention to it.
"I don't really look at it," said Hunter, who has 6.0 sacks this season, which is second in the NFL among rookies. "You just think about the next thing and don't live in the past.
"I just keep trying to learn as much as I can learn because I'm so young. I try to take advantage of that."
Filling The Void: With Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph doubtful for Sunday's game in Green Bay, there's a chance defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis could see more action against the Packers.
Ellis, who joined the Vikings in October as a free agent, has two tackles this season.
"He's a big, physical guy, has got some athletic abilities," Zimmer said. "It took him a little while to get the techniques of what we try to do from where he was, but he's doing good."
Battle Tested: Heading into Sunday's marquee matchup in Green Bay, the Vikings hold a 4-3 road record.
Winners of four of their past five games away from TCF Bank Stadium, Zimmer and the Vikings feel confident going on the road and playing well.
"We've played good for the most part on the road, and I've said what I keep saying all along, it's not really about where you play, it's how you play," Zimmer said. "We've played pretty good wherever we've been for the most part.
"We didn't win them all, but we played pretty good, so it's more about performing, performing under pressure, performing with the crowd noise and all the different things," Zimmer added. That's kind of how we approach it."
The winner of Sunday's game will win the NFC North with an 11-5 record. The loser will be a Wild Card team.
Injury Report: For the Vikings: Adrian Peterson (ankle/shoulder), Riley Reiff (lower leg), Harrison Smith (hamstring), Everson Griffen (shoulder), Anthony Harris (hip) and Adam Thielen (low back) fully participated Friday and are listed as probable. Danielle Hunter (knee) did not participate Friday, but also is listed as probable. Joseph (foot) is doubtful.
For the Packers: Green Bay did not practice Friday, but provided designations for all 16 players on its injury report. LB Jayrone Elliott (quad) and TE Justin Perillo (hamstring) did not participate. T David Bakhtiari (ankle), DT Mike Daniels (ankle), LB Mike Neal (hip), DT B.J. Raji (concussion), T Bryan Bulaga (ankle), DT Letroy Guion (foot), RB Eddie Lacy (rib), G T.J. Lang (shoulder), C Corey Linsley (ankle), CB Sam Shields (concussion), G Josh Sitton (back), and LB Nick Perry (shoulder) were listed as limited. CB Casey Hayward and LB Clay Matthews were listed as full.
Elliott and Perillo have been ruled out. Bakhtiari, Daniels, Neal, Raji and Shields are listed as questionable. Bulaga, Guion, Hayward, Lacy, Lang, Linsley, Sitton, Matthews and Perry are probable.