After leading the Vikings in sacks (12.5) last season and recording a total of 18.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Danielle Hunter's development is undeniable.
Tim Yotter of *Viking Update *wrote about Hunter's progression and what he expects to see from the defensive end in 2017.
It's a big year because so many people who witness him on a day-in, day-out basis see so much potential – some of that potential already realized and plenty more ahead.
It took some time for Hunter to get to this point. In his rookie season, he was a raw pass rusher that didn't really flourish until about midway through the season … Coaches saw more potential in him when he was in a two-point stance.
Yotter spoke with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who said one of the biggest changes for Hunter is that "his confidence has gone through the roof." Patterson said that Hunter understands his skill level and now sets even bigger expectations for himself on game day.
"I think that's the biggest thing is that he's not surprised when he makes a spectacular play. He expects for it to happen now," Patterson told Yotter. "I think going through last season and seeing the things that he was able to do has given him that confidence level."
Hunter received first-team reps throughout Organized Team Activity practices and the team's mandatory minicamp. When Yotter asked Patterson about Hunter receiving a starting role over veteran Brian Robison, the coach emphasized his philosophy that a defensive line best functions by committee.
"The number of snaps to me really won't change that much because of the three guys we have," Patterson said, referring to Hunter, Robison and starting left end Everson Griffen. "We've got Everson and we've got B-Rob and then hopefully Stephen Weatherly continues to come along. It's not a deal to where I expect him to be a 65-plus-play-a-game guy. I'm hoping that we're able to get those numbers to no more than 50 and then B-Rob is in the high 40s and Griff's is in the 50s, Stephen Weatherly in the 30s. That's what I'm hoping it's going to be. If it turns out that way, that's good for everybody."
Vikings shutting down the deep pass
The Vikings defense in 2016 made it incredibly difficult for opponents to successfully throw the deep ball.
According to Pro Football Focus, Minnesota topped the charts with the lowest passer rating allowed (51.3) by opposing teams on passes for 20 yards or more. For reference, the NFL average was 92.4.
The team closest to the Vikings was the Titans (58.6), followed by the Cowboys (58.7) and the Patriots (63.5).
The Vikings allowed opponents an average completion percentage of 60.6 and 207.9 passing yards per game in 2016.