Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter did not make the Pro Bowl despite leading the Vikings with 12.5 sacks.
But the 22-year-old still took in the game, thanks to Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press recently caught up with Hunter to chat about the Pro Bowl experience and Hunter’s goals for the 2017 season.
When nose tackle Linval Joseph was named Jan. 13 as a replacement for the Jan. 29 game in Orlando, Fla., one of the first things he did was invite Hunter to be one of his guests.
So Hunter watched with members of Joseph’s family. He came away determined to play in the game next year.
“(Joseph) felt like I should have been there, and he wanted me to be a part of it,” Hunter said. “So I said, ‘All right.’ Just being there made me more hungry to play in the Pro Bowl.”
Hunter, a third-round draft pick out of LSU in 2015, had 6.0 sacks as a rookie. He more than doubled that stat in 2016, and also added a defensive touchdown and a safety.
Yet as he enters his third season, Hunter said he’s vying for a starting job on the defensive line.
Defensive end Brian Robison, who turns 34 in April and has been a starter since 2011, said last month Hunter is ready to start, although Robison said he will do what he can to keep his spot in the lineup.
“(Robison) said he’s not going to make it easy. But that’s definitely something that I’m competing for, the starting job,” Hunter said. “(Defensive line coach Andre Patterson), tells me it’s all about competition, and I’m just going to go out there and compete and see what happens.”
PFF ranks Newman as one of NFL’s top cornerbacks
Terence Newman recorded one interception and had 14 passes defended, the second-most on the team in 2016 at the age of 38.
Pro Football Focus highlighted Newman’s season, saying “his performance in coverage was astonishing at a position where speed and athleticism is utmost.”
Newman ended the season as PFF’s ninth-ranked CB with a grade of 86.4, and if anything, his coverage numbers were even more astounding.
Pro Football Focus noted that Newman gave up a reception every 14.7 snaps he was in coverage, which was the second-best mark in the league behind Seattle’s Richard Sherman.
The website also pointed out a few other strong stats from Newman:
The big difference between the two players was when they were beat what kind of plays were they. Sherman surrendered 585 receiving yards over the year, and Newman just 245. Even when you account for Newman missing some time, he was beaten for almost half the receiving yardage per snap in coverage as Richard Sherman.
The Vikings cycled through a variety of coverages, and whatever it was, Newman was able to prevent the big play and break on the ball preventing receptions. He still has enough speed to get by, but crucially has lost none of his quickness and ability to read and diagnose plays. He was beaten for just one touchdown all season.
Newman, a first-round draft pick in 2003, finished up his second season in Minnesota. He has 41 career interceptions, the second-most most among active players.