Your Minnesota Vikings season may be (functionally) over, but for two of the purple and gold, there will be an honorary add-on to each of their seasons.
EDGE Danielle Hunter and long snapper Andrew DePaola will both be representing Minnesota at this year’s Pro Bowl Games in Orlando, FL.
There were also 6 Vikings named as alternates for the contest:
1st alternates: FB CJ Ham, TE T.J. Hockenson (Obviously unable to participate, but a nice tip of the cap),
2nd alternate: S Josh Metellus
3rd alternate: C Garrett Bradbury
4th alternates: DT Christian Darrisaw, S Harrison Smith
Hunter was an obvious choice as one of the best DEs in the NFC, and perhaps even the NFL this season. It’s pretty darn easy to see why he was selected when looking at raw stats (keep in mind there is one game yet to be played):
21 tackles for loss (tied league leader), 15.5 sacks (career best, 5th in the league -1.5 back of the leader), 4 forced fumbles (career best), and his 77 tackles (49 solo) are also a career best.
Beyond that though it is unquestionable he’s the leader on the defensive line (he is one of 4 captains on defense). This career-year is coming at a perfect time for the 29-year-old Hunter, who signed a one year deal with the Vikings this offseason despite a real worry that the two sides would not come to an agreement.
While the Vikings (likely) did not parlay that career year into anything beyond the regular season, it is unquestionable that Hunter will be the Vikings’ best player to start every game this year.
Per Vikings.com, Hunter stated: “It means a lot,” Hunter said. “It just tells me that everybody respects my game, and my peers and my coaches, the fans, they see the work that I put in. It’s ultimately one of my goals to always try to make the Pro Bowl if I can and always help my team in any way possible.”
On one hand, it can be easy to overlook the long snapping position. Everyone here has seen plenty of uneventful punts and routine field goals. Generally, people talk about the kicker of the punter in each situation - especially when things go bad. They are the men of the critical action of the play.
But Andrew DePaola’s job is much more meaningful than we all probably think... He is the one to start the chain reaction of every single Vikings kicking attempt and, under special circumstances, fake punt or trick play.
One of this year’s biggest highlights for Depaola had to be the fake punt against Denver in Week 11, in which RB Ty Chandler took the ball for 31 yards and a much needed first down in a close game. That wasn’t the only one either - Chandler took a DePaola snap 15 yards against Kansas City as well.
On the field goal side of things, DePaola hasn’t missed a snap yet - and Greg Joseph has been having a pretty unremarkable year as the Vikings kicker. Which should be viewed as a compliment with how much else has went wrong with the team.
Joseph is 22/28 this year on FGs and 34/36 this year on XPs - both respectable and right around average for “The Leg”. All of Joseph’s misses have come from 40+ yards, where it is more about the leg than the rhythm.
Beyond these two, it is good to see TJ Hockenson get a classy tip of the cap from the fans as well as consummate good guy CJ Ham. Well deserved all around from these Vikings who can for sure say they did their best despite a really tough season.