Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Danielle Hunter


Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, there was plenty of uncertainty regarding Danielle Hunter’s future with the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota parted ways with plenty of veteran players during the spring, including Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen, who had become synonymous with wearing a Vikings jersey.

When Hunter sat out of mandatory minicamp and conducted a hold-in to begin training camp, it seemed that he may be the next veteran to depart from the team.

Instead, the two sides managed to agree on a new one-year deal worth up to $20 million with $11.5 million in guaranteed money. This didn’t guarantee that Hunter will be around long-term, but it did mean he remained in purple jersey heading into the 2023 season.

So far, he’s proving that the Vikings made the right decision by keeping him around. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the impact of the Vikings star defender to begin the year.

Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Danielle Hunter

Danielle Hunter
Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Through two weeks, Hunter has absolutely terrorized opposing offenses. He leads the league in tackles for loss with 5 and is tied for the sack lead with T.J. Watt at 4.0. Considering the Vikings have opened the year against very strong offensive lines in Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, that only makes this start even more impressive.

From a historical perspective, Hunter is in rarefied air to begin this season. Since 1999, there have only been nine instances where a player has started a season with 5+ TFLs and 4+ sacks through a team’s first two games, per Stathead:

  • Warren Sapp (1999)
  • Keith McKenzie (2000)
  • Joe Johnson (2001)
  • Charlie Clemons (2001)
  • Antwan Odom (2009)
  • Clay Matthews (2010)
  • Clay Matthews (2012)
  • Myles Garrett (2019)
  • Danielle Hunter (2023)
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates the win after the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Oftentimes, great individual pass-rushing totals also come in part from players being paired with other great players. This can be seen in Charlie Clemons and Joe Johnson reaching this criteria on the same Saints team in 2001. Three other players recorded 6+ sacks on the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers alongside Warren Sapp. Clay Matthews played alongside A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji in 2010 and had Hawk by his side again in 2012.

Meanwhile, Hunter is the only player with multiple sacks or tackles for loss on this Vikings team. We’ve seen a grand total of four snaps from Marcus Davenport during the 2023 season. For Minnesota to find success in the pass-rushing department, it’s been Hunter or bust through the first two weeks.

Grading the Vikings Position Groups: Defense
Dec 16, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

This isn’t meant to take anything away from the great pass-rushers listed above, but the fact that Hunter has virtually carried the Vikings pass-rush by himself is truly remarkable. If Davenport gets on the field in the coming weeks, it should only make things even easier for Hunter moving forward.

Overall, it isn’t guaranteed that Hunter will remain in a Vikings uniform in 2024 and beyond. His contract comes to an end at the conclusion of this season, and he will hit free agency alongside a litany of other Vikings players in 2024. Appreciate his greatness while it is still here.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.





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