The team’s No. 1 cornerback a year ago as a rookie, Dantzler was penned as the team’s most significant breakout candidate by Pro Football Focus in January.
However, Dantzler struggled through the preseason as veteran free-agent Bashaud Breeland overtook him for the starting outside corner role.
Dantzler proved his mettle in Week 2, breaking up a pass on third down in the end zone in the fourth quarter that kept the Vikings’ chances alive in an eventual 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He played 16 defensive snaps, allowing only two catches for 23 yards on four targets and a 54.6 passer rating.
“It was quite a surprise, but I feel like that humbled me and made me hungry,” Dantzler said in his first press conference since his benching. “So I just came to practice each and every day and worked harder, so that won’t ever happen again.”
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Zimmer Encouraged by Dantzler
Two weeks ago, coach Mike Zimmer said Dantzler would need to get better on special teams to see the field following his benching.
Dantzler hasn’t fallen into complacency.
“I’ll just leave it up to (Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Karl Scott),” Dantzler said regarding his return to the starting lineup, per Tomasson. “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.”
He’s also embraced a special teams role after Zimmer’s public call-out.
“I feel like that process is going great,” Dantzler said. “I just have to do what I have to do on special teams, be active and help the team.”
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Dantzler on the Up
While regression from a strong rookie season is often the narrative in NFL circles, co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer described Dantzler’s process common among players his age.
“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.”
Last year against the Seahawks, Dantzler allowed D.K. Metcalf to convert a fourth-and-10 situation on a blown coverage that ultimately led to a loss. If he does play a significant role this Sunday, there is a chance at redemption for the second-year corner.