Cameron Dantzler didn’t have a fair chance to succeed

For a player entering his third year in the NFL, Cameron DantzlerThe time spent with the Minnesota Vikings can be described as both promising and confusing. Like most rookies in their inaugural season, he was inconsistent on a weekly basis. However, Dantzler showed flashes of why the Vikings drafted him with the 89th pick in 2020.

Unfortunately, Dantzler’s rookie growing pains put him squarely in Mike Zimmer’s niche, perhaps the worst situation a young player could find himself in heading into his sophomore year. This prompted the Vikings to sign Bashaud Breeland in June 2021, setting up the veteran to take Dantzler’s place with the starters.

Things only got worse when the Vikings started training camp in August. The coaches asked Dantzler to muscle up during the offseason. The extra weight cost him much of his speed and agility, which Dantzler was sorely lacking entering the league. This had a significant impact on his performance in training, and Zimmer bluntly stated that Kris Boyd was playing at a higher level than Dantzler. A few weeks later, the Vikings considered trading Dantzler to the San Francisco 49ers after Jason Verrett suffered a torn ACL in their season opener.

Despite all the criticism Dantzler received from the coaching staff for two years, he still played at an elite level for his age. He finished his inaugural season as the league’s highest-ranked rookie corner (70.9) to play at least 20% of their snaps, by PFF. He improved his game in his second year by being more consistent each week. He finished the season as the second-highest-rated corner (73.8) in his draft class behind AJ Terrell.

Advanced measurements also indicate that Dantzler is functioning well. Nick Shook released a list of the top 10 cover players in 2021 according to NFL Next Gen Stats, with Cam Dantzler ranked seventh. The methodology factors in the following statistics, to which I have added Dantzler’s figures in parentheses:

  • Authorized passer ranking (74)
  • Allowable catch rate lower than expected (-7.4%)
  • Narrow Window Percentage (20.6%)
  • Target rate (19.6%)
  • Average separation (2.8 yards)
  • Target expected points added (-18.2)

You can read the methodology above for a more detailed report on these statistics. But put simply: Dantzler exceeded expectations and performed at a high level.

With Zimmer out of the picture, you’d think new coaches would see Dantzler as an underutilized asset they can turn into a permanent fixture in Ed Donatell’s defense. However, given that the Vikings selected two cornerbacks in the first four rounds of the 2022 draft, that’s likely not the case. Many experts consulted Andre Booth Jr. as a first-round talent before injuries hurt his draft stock, and Akayleb Evans is the draft of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Adofo Mensah would have sitting in a dark room for hours watching Evans, which is absolutely not creepy at all.

Therefore, I will argue that DantzlerThe margin of error is even lower with the new coaching staff. Previously, Dantzler had been benched for a veteran cornerback, a common occurrence among young defensive backs. Now, he may lose his job to a player who is considered to have more advantages than him. Of course, this is not likely to happen immediately. However, if Booth or Evans start playing well in practice next year like Kris Boyd fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this became the catalyst for Adofo-Mensah to tell Kevin O’Connell: Hey, I think the guy I drafted is ready for a bigger role.

This coming season is crucial for Dantzler. Bashaud Breeland left, and patrick peterson is on a one year contract. After this year, Dantzler will be the oldest cornerback under contract. He must assert himself not only as a solid contributor in defense, as he has shown he is capable of, but also as a leader. Many young players compete for cornerback snaps, and the best way to stand out from the pack is to play the role of a veteran.

Even though Dantzler emerges as a key figure in the Vikings dressing room, there’s still a good chance he’ll be the odd one out when his contract runs out – especially with contract extensions for Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith Jr. imminent. In his two years with the Vikings, Dantzler didn’t have a fair chance at success. This may continue to be the case unless he establishes himself as an invaluable member of the defense.

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