The Minnesota Vikings’ top cornerback from the 2020 season went missing last Sunday in the team’s season opener.
Second-year corner Cam Dantzler was a healthy scratch against the Cincinnati Bengals. His fall from grace coincided with the additions of veteran talent in starters Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland.
Breeland particularly struggled in the overtime loss to the Bengals. However, he still has a grasp of the starting outside corner role that was once considered Dantzler’s to lose.
It’s unclear when Dantzler will see a defensive rep this season. Coach Mike Zimmer gave an ultimatum that there’s only one way for Dantzler to return on the defensive side of the ball — to excel on special teams first.
“First thing, he’s gotta play special teams,” Zimmer said in a September 15 press conference. “If you’re a backup player, you’ve gotta play special teams.”
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Dantzler’s Cryptic Response
Zimmer’s words didn’t fall deaf on Dantzler.
The 2020 third-round pick out of Mississippi State sent a couple of cryptic tweets saying “Wow” and “Smh,” an acronym for “shaking my head.”
Both tweets have since been deleted as fans responded with a flurry of comments that fed into Dantzler’s frustration.
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Dantzler Likely With Vikings for Long-Haul
Dantzler’s fall from grace has been drastic. He was rated the NFL’s top-graded corner by Pro Football Focus across seven weeks last season, producing a 31.1 quarterback rating when targeted.
However unhappy Dantzler may be with his current status on the team, the Vikings are still high on the 23-year-old.
Dantzler, currently behind Peterson, Breeland and third-year corner Kris Boyd at outside corner, has been asked to pay his dues on special teams after struggling to produce positive results in the preseason.
“The one thing about this business is it’s a production business,” co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said on KFAN, per Inside the Vikings. “You have to go out there and play well to be on the field. All the guys on the team, at every position, are competing to go play. And if you’re not playing well enough and other guys are playing better than you, you’ve gotta play the guys that are playing the best at this moment. The good thing is he can fix it. He can fix it by the way he goes out in practice and the way he plays. Right now, the guys that are in front of him are just playing better than him.”
But with Peterson, Breeland and Alexander all on one-year deals, the future of the franchise at cornerback is unknown. Dantzler has two more years on his rookie contract, making him indispensable at the moment.
“It’s just all of the skills that go along with playing corner and being competitive,” Patterson added. “So that’s what it comes down to, you gotta go out there and you gotta compete in practice. If you can’t compete in practice and you’re not competitive in practice, then you’re not going to be able to go out and play in the games. Like I said, the good part is he can fix it. He’s talented enough, it’s just a matter of him going out there and fixing it.”