The Keys to Cameron Dantzler’s Purple Future

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler (27) looks on in the first quarter during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Falcons defeated the Vikings 40-23. (AP Photo/David Berding)

If the best ability is availability, as they say, then Minnesota’s sophomore corner has some work to do. Indeed, Cameron Dantzler needs to put in work during the offseason to help ensure he’s physically ready for a 17-game regular season. Ideally, he’ll even help the team play more than 17 games.

Dantzler missed last week’s game against the Packers. His insertion in the lineup wouldn’t have been enough to snag the win; the winning ship sailed as soon as Kirk Cousins was placed on the Covid-19 list. Nevertheless, his presence would have made life more difficult for Aaron “The Toe” Rodgers. Take a peak at Davante Adams scorching Kris Boyd:

As you can see in the above video, Adams got the best of seemingly all of Minnesota’s corners. Boyd got beat a few times, and it’s hard to blame him. He’s the team’s CB3, a role that is largely the result of his inability to track the ball in the air. Boyd does a tremendous job coming forward and tackling; he struggles when forced to locate the ball down the field. In other words, he’s a great depth option and special teamer.

One wonders if having Dantzler out there would have made one or two of those completions more challenging. Unfortunately, he missed the game due to injury. Of course, this issue extends beyond just this one game. Take a peak at what Vikings.com had to say following his rookie season:

Dantzler weathered multiple injuries during the first half of the season but made an impact over 11 games (10 starts). He steadily improved from week to week and finished his campaign with 46 tackles (press box stats), three tackles for loss, four passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Dantzler also nabbed two interceptions, which led all Minnesota cornerbacks in 2020.

The issue, quite evidently, isn’t necessarily with his abilities, or lack thereof. During this past offseason, Cameron Dantzler added weight to help him stay healthy. It was a calf injury that kept him out this past weekend, though, and we’ll have to wait and see if he’ll be out there against the Bears.

Earlier in the year, Dantzler even dropped below Boyd on the depth chart. His competitiveness was questioned, as was his broader role on the team insofar as he doesn’t play much on special teams. There have been times in his short career when he seemingly struggles with focus (the D.K. Metcalf catch in his rookie year; the Amon-Ra St. Brown game-winning TD this year).

The issues, then, are several, though not insurmountable. Begin by attacking offseason training with vigor. Continue adding productive weight, increased size that doesn’t prohibit movement abilities. From there, dial-in mentally on one’s role within the Vikings defense. Have a thorough understanding of various situations and the responsibilities that flow therefrom. Nailing these things would raise Dantzler’s floor by a large amount.

Fans, writers, and coaches have always been able to see that Dantzler can play. The concern has always been these other issues. The good thing is that the problems can be fixed with hard work. The future appears to be in Dantzler’s control. He can’t overcome every injury, but he can get in incredible shape. He can’t eliminate every mental error, but he can spend more time studying film and understanding his role. Furthermore, one thing he can always do is compete on every single snap. Football is a sport that often involves controlling what one can control (cliché, but true). Dantzler can control these things.

If successful, Cameron Dantzler will be a bright spot on Minnesota’s defense.