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Can Cameron Dantzler make the leap in Year Three?

He’s going to get every opportunity

Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When it comes to the defensive backfield, the Minnesota Vikings appear to have more questions than answers at the moment. Yes, veteran Patrick Peterson is back for another season in purple and the team drafted Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft to help inject some talent into the group, but there’s one player that will be pivotal in the unit making a significant improvement.

The arrow appeared to be pointing up for Cameron Dantzler at the end of his rookie season, as he had established himself as a pretty solid player at the end of a first campaign that saw him deal with a lot of injuries. Then, he reportedly struggled in Training Camp in 2021 and was even a healthy scratch for the season opener, a move that baffled a lot of observers (yours truly included). However, despite some of the struggles he had in 2021, he wound up being one of the team’s better corners.

Nick Shook of NFL.com put together a list of the best coverage players of the 2021 season based on Next Gen Stats, and Dantzler pops up on the list at #7.

Seeing Dantzler here might come as a surprise, but the metrics for him were too good to overlook. He posted a targeted EPA of -18.2 (10th among DBs). Dantzler excelled at limiting yards gained by opposing pass catchers, allowing just 4.9 yards per target in coverage, one of the lowest rates in the NFL. He also tied for the fourth-fewest yards after catch per reception allowed at 2.3. A tight-window percentage of 20.6 just barely nudged him into qualifying for the list, but it allowed for folks like me to realize Dantzler was better in coverage than most realized.

Injuries have been a part of Dantzler’s inconsistency in his first couple of seasons in Minnesota, but now with a new defensive coaching staff in town we might be able to see what he’s really capable of. With Booth still recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery, Dantzler got plenty of time with the 1s in OTAs and will, presumably, enter Training Camp as the odds-on favorite to start across from Peterson until Booth finally gets up to speed.

With passing games around the NFL putting up numbers at a ridiculous pace, a team can’t possibly have too many solid cornerbacks. If Dantzler can get his career back on an upward trajectory he has a chance to form a very solid trio with Peterson and Booth, with Chandon Sullivan presumably handling most of the slot corner work.

Do you think that this is the year that Cameron Dantzler puts it all together and emerges as a consistently above-average NFL cornerback?