2023 Vikings Position Recap - footballivenews
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2023 Vikings Position Recap



EAGAN, Minn. — Despite facing challenges with limited depth, the outside linebackers of the Vikings played a pivotal role in the significant defensive improvements witnessed during the inaugural year under Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores in 2023.

Danielle Hunter delivered an outstanding performance as an edge rusher, achieving numerous career-best statistics and securing his fourth Pro Bowl appearance. His exceptional contributions earned him a spot on the Professional Football Writers Association’s All-NFC Team.

Acknowledging his stellar performance, Hunter was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October. Throughout five games in that month, he forced two fumbles, registered 18 tackles (including five tackles for loss), and accumulated 5.0 sacks. Notably, the Vikings achieved a 4-1 record during this period, with their only loss against Kansas City in October. Hunter’s notable achievements in October included surpassing the 80th career sack milestone, moving past former teammate Everson Griffen (79.5) to claim the seventh spot in franchise history.

In the Week 15 matchup against Cincinnati, Hunter added 2.0 more sacks to his tally, surpassing Vikings Ring of Honor member Jared Allen (86.5) for the sixth position in team history.

The original strategy for the Vikings involved pairing Hunter frequently with edge rusher Marcus Davenport, who had signed a one-year deal in free agency.

During the training camp, Hunter and Davenport displayed the potential to form a formidable duo with the flexibility to move across the defensive front. A planned pressure strategy involved moving Davenport inside and adding D.J. Wonnum to the edge.

However, unforeseen challenges disrupted the initial plans. Davenport missed the season opener, played minimally in subsequent weeks, and was inactive for the following game. Despite recording sacks in Weeks 4 and 5, Davenport’s season was capped during Week 6 against Chicago, marking the end of his sixth professional season since being drafted in the first round by New Orleans in 2018.

Wonnum, a fourth-round pick in 2020, stepped up admirably and had an impressive season, starting 14 out of 15 games. He achieved career highs in tackles (62) and passes defensed (six) before suffering a quadriceps injury in Week 16 against Detroit. Unfortunately, his versatility was missed in the final stretch, preventing him from pursuing new career highs in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. Wonnum tied his 2021 numbers in each of these categories.

In Wonnum’s absence, Pat Jones II filled in, particularly in the last three games of the season, where he played over 50 defensive snaps per game. Andre Carter II, an undrafted rookie, contributed in 12 games, mainly on special teams, amassing 142 snaps.

Notable Numbers:

– 16.5 sacks by Hunter, ranking fifth in a single season for any Vikings player.
– 24.5 combined sacks by Hunter and Wonnum, marking the fourth-highest by a Vikings DE/OLB combo in a season.
– 12 games by Hunter with at least one sack, tying Jared Allen’s 2011 record for the most in a single Vikings season.
– 23 tackles for loss by Hunter, setting a career high and franchise record.

The Highest High:

Week 4 at Carolina stands out as a highlight, where Wonnum’s scoop-and-score touchdown played a pivotal role in turning the tide of the game. Despite falling behind early, Wonnum’s fumble recovery and subsequent 51-yard touchdown return shifted momentum in the Vikings’ favor, leading to a crucial win.

The Biggest Bummer:

Davenport’s lack of availability was a significant disappointment, considering the substantial investment made in him. Limited to a few games, he demonstrated productivity, with a notable quarterback pressure rate. However, his frequent absences hampered the Vikings’ defensive plans.

2 Pressing Questions for 2024:

1. Will the Vikings re-sign Hunter?
– As Hunter’s contract situation unfolds, the team faces the decision of retaining the veteran edge rusher, considering his age, consistent productivity, and adaptability to different defensive schemes.

2. How will depth be addressed?
– With Wonnum and Davenport potentially entering free agency, the Vikings must evaluate options for bolstering depth at the outside linebacker position. This could involve exploring free agency, addressing the position in the draft, or a combination of both, guided by Flores’ experience in the Patriots personnel department.

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