What Danielle Hunter Means for Vikings

What Danielle Hunter Means for Vikings Vincent Verhei 13 Aug 2021, 10:30 am

Minnesota Vikings ER Danielle Hunter

Those of you who have acquired Football Outsiders Almanac 2021( now available !) will know that we like the Vikings’ chances of returning to the playoffs. Minnesota qualified for the postseason in a little more than half of our simulations, duelling the also-rans from the NFC South and West for wild-card positioning. If the Vikings are going to live up to that forecast, nonetheless, they’re going to need to improve a pass hasten that was the weakest we have measured in almost a decade.

According to Sports Info Solutions, the Vikings pressured resisting quarterbacks on simply 18.9% of dropbacks. That wasn’t just the lowest rate in the tournament, it was the worst for any defense in any season dating back to 2012. That wasn’t the only problem for Minnesota’s front–they also gave up 5.16 adjusted line gardens, the second-worst mark in our records–but this article is focusing on pass pressure. How did the Vikings finish so low-spirited, and is there hope they will improve in 2021?

The Vikings had graded in the top half of the league in pressure rate in each of the prior five seasons, so there was little warning that a breakdown was imminent. But then Danielle Hunter, who had led the association with 14.5 sackings and 59 rushings in 2019, missed the entire 2020 season with a herniated disk in his neck. Yannick Ngakoue, acquired via commerce from Jacksonville shortly before opening day, was subsequently traded to the Ravens after Minnesota lost five of its first six games. Ngakoue merely played a half-dozen games for the Vikings but still resulted the fraternity with 5.0 sacks.

The losses of Hunter and Ngakoue left Minnesota with exactly zero edge rushers who had ever started an NFL game prior to last-place season. Three of them are eligible for our tables in FOA 2021 😛 TAGEND

Ifeadi Odenigbo, the Vikings’ seventh-round pick in 2017, spent the first several years of his career bouncing around practise crews in Minnesota, Cleveland, and Arizona. He eventually lodged as a situational pass-rusher with the Vikings in 2019, racking up 7.0 bags in fewer than 400 defensive clicks. However, he was overmatched as a DE1 in 2020, collecting only 3.5 bags and 19 rushings. The latter figure resulted the team, but was not in the top 60 in the NFL.

Jalyn Holmes, a 2018 fourth-rounder, started nine plays but failed to record a single sack. He had one bag as a rookie, taking down the Jets’ Sam Darnold in Week 7, but has zero sackings in 22 games since.

D.J. Wonnum, a fourth-round rookie out of South Carolina, had 3.0 bags last year, including a strip-sack on an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary attempt on the last play of Minnesota’s upset win over Green Bay in Week 8.

Ngakoue signed with the Raiders in March, stirring them his fourth team in merely over six months. Idenigbo joined the Giants in free agency and may end up starting, which tells you something about how woeful the perimeter of New York’s defense lookings this year. Holmes and Wonnum remain on the roster but ought to have shunted deep down the magnitude chart. Stephen Weatherly, who squander four years on the Vikings bench before making zero bags in nine plays for Carolina last year, returned to Minnesota in free organization and is expected to start by default. The Vikings also drafted a pair of edge rushers: third-rounder Patrick Jones II( Pittsburgh) and fourth-rounder Janarius Robinson( Florida State ). SackSEER was not thrilled with either potential. The interior of the line has also been rebuilt, with Dalvin Tomlinson arriving in free organization and Michael Pierce returning from a COVID opt-out.

In the end, the Vikings are relying on Hunter to return from injury and play like the bloom superstar he had resembled in prior seasons. Let’s not forget that from 2016 to 2019, Hunter made two Pro Bowls and finished in the top four in bags three times. Only Chandler Jones and Aaron Donald had more sacks in those four seasons. Hunter was also in the top 10 in hastes in both 2018 and 2019. And he’s still a young man–he doesn’t turn 27 until October. Hunter is currently + 3300 to win Comeback Player of the Year at most betting locates, which seem like very good odds for someone in his position.

Hunter is about to start a very high-stakes season. The Vikings re-worked his contract to guarantee him $5.6 million up front as a contract bonus, but in the process they added an $18 million roster bonus for 2022. If Hunter is anything less than prevailing this year, he’ll be cut before he ever sees that money. But then, if he’s anything less than reigning, the Vikings are likely to miss the playoffs again and start a rebuild from the ground up.

Full 2020 Results

There’s no excuse for last-place place, but to be fair to the Vikings, their pressure rate was historically low in part because everyone’s pressure rate lowered. The league median was 25.2%, down from 30.3% in 2019 and the lowest in any year since 2014.

Defenses and Pressure, 2020

Defense Plays Pct Pressure Rk DVOA

w/ Pressure Rk DVOA

no Pressure Rk DVOA Dif. Rk Cavity 611 30.4% 1 -1 05.7% 3 17.8% 9 -1 23.4% 7 LAR 635 30.2% 2 -7 8.4% 10 13.8% 3 -9 2.2% 21 NO 638 30.1% 3 -7 2.9% 14 9.6% 1 -8 2.5% 25 KC 630 29.8% 4 -5 6.9% 23 31.3% 15 -8 8.2% 23 MIA 613 29.4% 5 -9 2.9% 4 33.9% 17 -1 26.8% 4 PHI 605 29.3% 6 -8 6.1% 7 55.6% 31 -1 41.7% 2 TB 693 29.0% 7 -8 8.8% 6 27.8% 12 -1 16.6% 12 NE 560 28.9% 8 -6 4.0% 20 37.7% 21 -1 01.7% 18 WAS 607 27.7% 9 -1 10.7% 1 17.0% 7 -1 27.7% 3 DAL 588 27.0% 10 -7 3.5% 13 43.9% 25 -1 17.4% 10 BAL 667 26.7% 11 -7 8.7% 9 27.7% 11 -1 06.4% 16 SF 611 26.5% 12 -5 1.2% 26 13.5% 2 -6 4.7% 29 NYJ 653 25.6% 13 -7 0.6% 17 53.4% 30 -1 24.0% 6 ARI 664 25.5% 14 -8 9.7% 5 30.9% 13 -1 20.6% 9 BUF 649 25.3% 15 -3 6.5% 30 15.7% 6 -5 2.2% 32 NYG 650 25.1% 16 -7 0.8% 16 41.8% 24 -1 12.6% 15 CAR 639 24.9% 17 -5 8.2% 22 37.6% 20 -9 5.9% 19 ATL 689 24.7% 18 -7 3.9% 12 39.9% 22 -1 13.9% 14 DEN 642 24.0% 19 -4 5.2% 28 15.5% 5 -6 0.7% 31 IND 638 24.0% 20 -5 6.3% 24 13.8% 4 -7 0.2% 27 CLE 648 23.9% 21 -7 5.5% 11 45.4% 28 -1 20.9% 8 SEA 758 23.9% 22 -8 4.8% 8 41.3% 23 -1 26.1% 5 LAC 603 23.1% 23 -7 1.8% 15 32.9% 16 -1 04.7% 17 TEN 683 23.0% 24 -3 8.8% 29 44.1% 26 -8 2.9% 24 GB 613 22.8% 25 -1 10.6% 2 37.1% 19 -1 47.7% 1 LV 635 22.8% 26 -5 3.2% 25 37.1% 18 -9 0.2% 22 CHI 619 22.8% 27 -6 6.5% 19 26.1% 10 -9 2.6% 20 DET 610 21.0% 28 -6 1.1% 21 56.2% 32 -1 17.3% 11 JAX 595 20.2% 29 -3 2.5% 31 45.4% 27 -7 7.9% 26 HOU 600 20.0% 30 -6 6.8% 18 47.7% 29 -1 14.5% 13 CIN 592 19.9% 31 -3 1.3% 32 30.9% 14 -6 2.3% 30 MIN 592 18.9% 32 -5 0.4% 27 17.2% 8 -6 7.6% 28 NFL Average 25.2% -7 0.1%

32.7%

-1 02.7%

Seattle was dead last-place with a pressure rate of 24.0% in 2019; in 2020, they only 10 smudges highest in the higher-rankings even though their pressure rate remained virtually unchanged. Simply two defenses produced pressure more often than they had the year before: Miami, whose pressure rate rose from 24.1% to 29.4%, and Washington, who learnt a lump from 26.1% to 27.7%. That’s what signing Emmanuel Ogbah and drafting Chase Young can do for you. Meanwhile, four teams–Cincinnati, Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Minnesota–saw their pressure rates fall by at least 10 percentage points.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had the league’s highest pressure rate at 30.4%, a rate that would have left them in the middle of the pack in 2019. And the priorities in the table was terribly tight–the top eight crews are still within 10 pressure play-acts of each other, about one every other game.

We should point out, however, that 2020 ‘s results are the norm , not certain exceptions. It’s the three years from 2017 to 2019 that are the anomaly. The league-wide pressure rate was at least 30.0% in each of those seasons, but it has never clambered greater than 27.1% in any other year since 2010. The lowest on record was in 2012, when the average rate was just 20.2%.

DVOA with Pressure

Teams that rank highly here are those that are able to convert pressure into sackings. That’s good news for Washington and Green Bay, who were effectively tied for first place in DVOA on play-acts where they made pressure.( Technically Washington finished in first place by a few decimal points, but the difference is insignificantly small-scale .) The bad news, especially for the Packers, is that they didn’t rank so high-pitched in pressure rate. Pressure rate is much more consistent from year to year( coefficient of correlation:. 503) than DVOA with pressure (. 240 ). It’s very unlikely that these teams will once again rank one-two in DVOA with pressure in 2021, which means they’re going to have to generate pressure more often to avoid a defensive decline.

The flipside is also true: squads that had a high pressure rate but a poor DVOA with pressure might be expected to improve. Strong candidates there include Baltimore and Kansas City, though this formula is not aware that the Chiefs’ top edge rusher was arrested on artillery accusations in June and is facing a lengthy prison sentence , not to mention a likely suspension.

The Bengals were last in the tournament with 17 bags, and they were also last in DVOA with pressure. The Jaguars were second-to-last in both categories.

DVOA without Pressure

This stat is important because it measurings a secondary’s ability to cover receivers when the pass hurry-up fails to pressure the opposed quarterback–which, for even the most fierce defenses, is most of the time. For New Orleans, the top squad in this category, it says a lot about their linebackers as well. Demario Davis led all qualifiers at the position by allowing merely 3.1 gardens per target in coverage, and he was fifth with a success rate of 68%. Teammate Kwon Alexander also made the top 10 in both categories. That’s a big reason the Saints were second in DVOA on passes to tight objectives.

The 49 ers finished in second place here, which says a ton about Robert Saleh’s coaching ability considering how many traumata the 49 ers suffered on protection. The Rams, Colts, and Broncos were next in line, which says a ton about the coverage abilities of Jalen Ramsey, Xavier Rhodes, and Bryce Callahan. Meanwhile, the corners on the teams at the bottom of this category–the Lions, Eagles, and Jets–were not nearly as successful.

Again, we find a lot of year-to-year variance in DVOA in this category, which entails teams that had a good pressure rate but a poor DVOA without pressure might be expected to improve in 2021. The most obvious team in that category is Philadelphia–sixth in pressure rate, 31 st in DVOA without pressure. Teams that ranked higher in DVOA without pressure than they did in pressure rate–and thus might be expected to decline–include Indianapolis, Denver, and Minnesota, which nicely delivers this article full circle.

DVOA Differential

Every defense is better when they get pressure than when they don’t( duh ), but for some teams the gap is larger than others. Take the Packers, for example. They had a DVOA of 37.1% with pressure but -1 10.6% without it. That change of 147. 7% was the highest in the conference in 2020 … or in any other year since 2014. In short, this intends the Packers were dominant when they got pressure, but mediocre when they did not.

Green Bay’s opposite in this department was Buffalo. The Bills were sixth in the tournament with a DVOA of 15.7% without pressure, but 30 th with a DVOA of -3 6.5% with pressure. That’s a gap of 52. 2 %, the fourth smallest we have ever assessed. They’re well short of the record, though: The 2018 Oakland Raiders, the only defense we have ever assessed that had a positive DVOA even with pressure, had a gap of merely 27.0%. Yes, that was the year they traded away Khalil Mack, why do “youre asking”?

1

Hunter is about to start …

Hunter is about to start a very high-stakes season. The Vikings re-worked his contract to guarantee him $5.6 million up front as a signing bonus, but in the process they added an $18 million listing bonus for 2022. If Hunter is anything less than dominant this year, he’ll be cut before he ever sees that money.

I don’t get how the Vikings were able to get away with a “prove-it” year with Hunter. They basically widened him for peanuts in 2018, and he’s vastly overperformed what he’s been paid.

By next year Hunter will have earned $ 46 M over 7 years of play( yes, one year injured ). For a person with 54 sackings already. Even if he only racks up 6 sacks this year, 60 sacks over 6 full seasons is a double-digit sack average( and it’s not like Barrett’s where it’s the result of one ogre time, either ). If the Vikings cut him, that’s one of the biggest screw-jobs in NFL edge rusher history. Under$ 7M/ yr for that kind of production is criminal.

The funny thing is that for some reason the media covered the 18 M bonus in 22 as a “poison pill” for the Vikings, as if for some reason they’d simply have to rework his contract, because golly gee, a cap accuse of $33 M over 2 years for a reigning rusher would just be too hard for them. I signify, what?

Jeez, if he gets anywhere close to double-digit sackings you pay him that bonus. Top-end rushers are $20 M/ yr.

Read more: footballoutsiders.com

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