Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler went from being a starter last season to a healthy scratch in Week 1 of this season. He was as surprised about it as anyone.
Dantzler was benched in the opener, a 27-24 overtime loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 12. He was active for last Sunday’s 34-33 loss at Arizona, and was on the field for 16 defensive plays. His highlight was breaking up a fourth-quarter third-down pass in the end zone.
“It was quite a surprise, but I feel like that humbled me and made me hungry,” Dantzler said Thursday in his first comments since the benching. “So I just came to practice each and every day and worked harder, so that won’t ever happen again.”
Dantzler started 10 of the 11 games he played last season as a rookie before losing his job this season to veteran Bashaud Breeland. It’s possible Dantzler could regain the spot in the near future considering Breeland is ranked 99th and last by Pro Football Focus among all NFL cornerbacks.
“I’ll just leave it up to (Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Karl Scott),” Dantzler said of whether he might get back in the starting lineup. “I’m comfortable with whatever decision they make. If I don’t start, whenever my number’s called, I’ll be ready. If I do start, I’ll be ready to start.”
On Wednesday, Zimmer didn’t rule out starting Dantzler in Sunday’s game against Seattle, saying, “We’ll see.” Zimmer said last week one reason Dantzler was inactive in Week 1 was that he needed to improve his play on special teams.
“I feel like that process is going great,” said Dantzler, who played nine special teams snaps against the Cardinals. “I just have to do what I have to do on special teams, be active and help the team.”
Vikings co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said Danzler is in a much better mental state now than when he was benched at Cincinnati.
“He’s going through what any young player goes through, you don’t play one time and you might lose some confidence,” Adam Zimmer said. “But he came into (last Sunday’s) game, played confident, made some plays, and I expect him to continue to do that for us.”
No Vikings position group improved more between Week 1 and Week 2 than the offensive line.
Against the Bengals, the line committed numerous penalties, allowed Kirk Cousins to be sacked three times and paved the way for just 67 yards rushing. Against the Cardinals, the penalties were cut down significantly, Cousins was sacked just once and the Vikings rolled up 177 yards on the ground.
“Our offensive line played cleaner and just allowed us to have success,” offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said. “We weren’t shooting ourselves in the foot.”
After Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the loss to the Cardinals, special-teams coordinator Ryan Ficken stressed to him the need to move forward. “It was a tough miss obviously (but) the next biggest kick is his next kick.” … It hasn’t taken long for Vikings first-year defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to be impressed with defensive end Danielle Hunter, who has three sacks in two games. “He’s like a freak of nature out there,” Tomlinson said. “His pass-rush ability is through the roof.”