Oct 3, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler (27) breaks off a pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) of Cleveland Browns at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler is going through a wild calendar year.
First, when the 2020 regular season came to a close in January, Dantzler finished as the NFL’s top rookie corner, earning a commendable mark of 70.9 from Pro Football Focus. Besides the possibility of winning a Defensive Rookie of the Year award, that’s about the best foundation imaginable for a young defensive back to build on. Ergo, the future was dazzlingly bright.
Dantzler was predicted to be the Vikings CB1 for 2021 – he played that damn well in 2020. Free agency hit, and the franchise signed Patrick Peterson, a player with an All-Pro backbone, to act as Dantzler’s running mate. What a perfect partnership for an already great young corner.
The path to Dantzler’s continued progression was completely cleared when fellow rookie corner Jeff Gladney ran into trouble, leading to his release from the organization and possible jail time. Strangely, this strengthened Dantzler’s grip on the runway.
But then general manager Rick Spielman took Bashaud Breeland away from the Kansas City Chiefs. Step by step, Breeland grabbed the runway across from Peterson as Dantzler quietly disappeared into the background.
Dantzler didn’t help his case when the Denver Broncos – most notably KJ Hamler – set him on fire during a preseason game at US Bank Stadium. Suddenly, on the first unofficial depth map of the year, Danzlter was kicked down to CB6, if that can be believed.
That’s right, the NFL’s top rookie CB was irrelevant for some godforsaken reason. The saga continued as Dantzler played sparingly in the first three games of 2021 in the Vikings. He was frustrated by the ordeal and took to Twitter to vent his resentment. With each post, he would delete his plaintive words shortly after.
For the team range, a lack of Dantzler was maddening because Breeland was terrible to start the season. To be PFF score is still terrible. In fact, he’s been the NFL’s worst cornerback for four weeks. It’s mind-boggling.
Still, Mike Zimmer and friends finally got on the program and added Dantzler to Week 4’s game against the Cleveland Browns. He blossomed.
Right now — with a relatively small sample size — Dantzler is the NFL’s sixth-best corner PFF. And check your notes – the sixth best is better than the last.
Therefore, the earth returned to its ashes, and the Mississippi State alumnus usurped Breeland for playtime. Coincidentally, the Vikings showed their best defensive performance of 2021, with Dantzler getting plenty of action. Amazing how that works.
Here we are. Everything is fine, right? Not quite.
Dantzler now has the coronavirus, so the soap continues.
#vikings CB Cameron Dantzler was reportedly placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He tested positive.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 4, 2021
Fortunately, Dantzler has been vaccinated, which significantly increases his prognosis for recovery. But the tilt-a-whirl of his 2021 season is like hard blows moving.
He is optimistic about his return:
Fully vaccinated so this shouldn’t keep me out for too long. Keep me in your prayers. 🙏🏽
— Cam Dantzler (@camdantzler3) October 5, 2021
The general population will probably never know why Dantzler settled in Zimmer’s doghouse for a month. And sure enough, the immature tweets didn’t help. Nevertheless, when Dantzler is on the field, he is arguably the best cornerback on the depth chart.
Without any hiccups and according to his own undeleted tweet, he should be back in a week. Hopefully, for his good and for the sake of the team, his orbit of quirks is over.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawho and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).