EAGAN, Minn. – Gone are the days of Danielle Hunter being a little-known name.
The Vikings defensive end has continued to make significant strides with each season, and this year Hunter has put more than enough on tape to have opposing quarterbacks shaking in their boots – or should I say cleats?
Bears Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich spoke to Chicago media members on Thursday and said that Hunter is a "great effort guy." He referenced Hunter's outing against the Lions in Week 9, in which he sacked Matthew Stafford 3.5 times.
"There are a few times, especially watching the Detroit film, where it's kind of like 'mature audiences only' for a quarterback," Helfrich quipped. "It's just effort."
Helfrich said that Hunter has counter moves, speed and power. And he, along with the rest of the Vikings defense, is good at disguising plays.
"They're really good at the pressure game. They're really good at making the non-pressure and the pressure look the same," Helfrich said of Minnesota's defense under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "How they get on the edge of people all the time, it's just that half a second, that half-step where, whoever it is, the tackle slow sets and then he's beat off the edge. Or they're worried about the A-gap and the B-gap pressure comes, or whatever it is. They're really good."
View images from the Vikings practice in preparation for the Chicago Bears at the TCO Performance Center on Thursday, November 15.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky also referenced the Vikings defense and said that "nothing comes easy against" the group. He emphasized that it will be important for the Bears to be on their "A-game" and keep Minnesota off-balance.
"We want to dictate the tempo of the game and just pick up everything they're throwing at us. We know they've got a great pass rush and they're solid in all areas, and it really comes down to execution and having a great game plan this week and believing in it," Trubisky said. "There's going to be a lot of adjustments on the fly, they're probably going to show up in some new looks, and we'll just try to study as much as we can.
"We know they're very good on third down. They're a very good third-down defense, so we're trying to stay out of third-and-long situations, want them to be very manageable, and we have to have a great execution on third down and in the red zone," he added.
Trubisky was 0-2 against the Vikings as a rookie in 2017. He was intercepted in the first contest by Harrison Smith, who picked off Trubisky with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Trubisky called the turnover "a learning moment."
"I think I've grown a lot since that play. I'm not the same player, not even close," Trubisky said. "I've gotten better since that instance, and I'm excited for the opportunity this weekend."
Here are other highlights of the Bears talking about the Vikings this week:
Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy on Hunter and the Vikings defense:
"He's a heck of a player. He flies around. I love the way he attacks the edges, the different moves that he has. High motor, you have to know where he's at all the time. And that's for everybody on that defense. I mean, you watch that defense play, and there's a reason why they're breaking records. We're going to have our hands full on Sunday night, we know that. We have a lot of respect for them and understand what they can do. But yeah, it's very impressive, watching that whole defense on tape."
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio on challenges that Kirk Cousins presents:
"He's a very accurate passer, he's a very good [diagnostician] of defenses, knows where to go with the ball based on the route they have called versus the coverage you called. He's a very good processor of the information; he's very accurate when he throws it. He's got, deceptively, a very strong arm that I don't think he gets enough credit for."
Fangio on Dalvin Cook:
"An explosive player. He's strong, yet explosive. He can break the big run. He had a 70-yarder [against the Lions].
Fangio on Vikings offense overall:
"They're pretty good all around. Obviously everybody knows about their receivers, they're really good, and they've got a good tight end, who's really good, also. And he's good all over the field, especially in the red zone. They've got good backs, and everyone knows about the quarterback. They're a well-balanced offense."
DT Akiem Hicks on Cousins/Vikings offense:
"I think that Kirk Cousins is a great quarterback in this league. I think that their offensive line has played together well. … You just have to beat them. You have to get there. You have to out-play them."
Hicks on playing a team with another top defense:
"I think both of our defenses are very aggressive. We have a very strong front seven. I would say personally, I have a little bit of a bias, but our secondary is flying around the ball every week, taking the ball out of everybody's hand and making plays. So I'm going to go with our defense."
Helfrich on the Vikings defensive success on third downs:
"The challenge of their third-down defense is the challenge of their first- and second-down defense. They average third-and-9 – or whatever it is, 8.6 – and that is a bad percentage game for an offense. They're just really, really good at what they do. They're extremely sound. All those guys have played together for a long time. They've showed their depth this year as far as a couple guys getting banged up, and they haven't skipped a beat. In some places, arguably better in terms of the third-down production. But just a combination of great scheme and great guys executing it for a long time."