Over the course of the offseason, we identified cornerback Cameron Dantzler as a player that could potentially step up for the Minnesota Vikings in his third NFL season. It wasn’t just us. . .there were plenty of other media outlets that had jumped aboard the hype train as well.
It would appear. . .at least through the first five games of the 2022 NFL season. . .that those takes were spot-on.
We’ll get to the incredible play that Dantzler made to seal Sunday’s win over Chicago in a bit, but it’s worth noting that he’s made significant strides in his primary duty of covering wide receivers this year as well.
#Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler has had back-to-back two of the best games of his three-year NFL career, Oct. 2 vs. Saints and yesterday vs. Bears (had game-clinching fumble theft). He's now ranked by Pro Football Focus as NFL's No. 15 cornerback after being No. 34 entering Sunday.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) October 10, 2022
According to Pro Football Focus rankings (per Chris Tomasson), Dantzler now rates as a top-15 cornerback in the NFL after his performance on Sunday. Now, granted, he hasn’t exactly faced “Three Deep” over the past couple of weeks, but in the NFL you have to cover the guy that’s across from you (or that comes into your zone. . .you know what I mean), and right now Dantzler is doing that at a pretty high level.
Given that Patrick Peterson (who Dantzler reportedly studies film with twice a week) isn’t getting any younger and isn’t signed with the Vikings beyond this season, it would be great if Dantzler could step up and provide that level of play in his place. Peterson is a future Hall of Famer, in all likelihood, and there’s a lot that someone like Dantzler can learn from him. It appears he’s taking every opportunity to do just that.
But that play at the end of the Bears game. . .man, I’m having trouble thinking of a better play from a Vikings’ defensive player in recent memory. Maybe Jared Allen sacking Eli Manning through a Giants’ offensive lineman in the Josh Freeman game, but man. . .that was damn near a decade ago.
Look at what Dantzler does on this play, would you? After Ihmir Smith-Marsette makes the catch, to his credit, he stiff-arms Dantzler damn near out of his shoes. But rather than staying down, Dantzler gets back up, chases his former teammate down, and straight-up rips the ball out of his hands. You don’t see that often.
My personal favorite description of this play came from Rodger Sherman over at The Ringer in his Week 5 “Winners and Losers” column.
But Dantzler’s play is not over. He gets up, runs up behind Smith-Marsette, gets both hands on the ball, and rips it away. It’s not a fumble; it’s a bold-faced robbery, in broad daylight, in front of nearly 70,000 fans and millions of viewers at home. He took that ball from Smith-Marsette in front of all of Smith-Marsette’s friends and family and whatever higher power he believes in. He took that ball, and the game was over.
That covers it. That’s exactly what Dantzler did. The Bears were on the verge of taking the game from the Vikings and Dantzler decided that he was going to take it back.
I know that Cameron Dantzler isn’t going to make plays like this every week. However, after having an up-and-down first couple of seasons it appears that he’s finally turned the corner and is truly fulfilling the promise that the Vikings were hoping for when they drafted him in the third round in 2020. Hopefully he can continue building on this and be a defensive cornerstone for the Vikings in the future.