Monday, October 3, 2022

Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell causes a stir with cryptic comment on bank starter

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A quiet tale of the Minnesota Vikings unfolding amid a demoralizing 24-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night…

Where did Cameron Dantzler go?

The third-year cornerback seemed steadfast early on, making two tackles on the flats in a series in the second quarter and later stopping a pass to force the Eagles to stab.

However, Dantzler was absent from the field in the second half. He was replaced by fourth-round rookie Akayleb Evans.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell approached Evans, who replaced Dantzler, but largely sidestepped concerns about Dantzler.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported on September 20, O’Connell said he just wanted to buy Evans some playing time. However, Seifert, reading the lines was not convinced by O’Connell’s answer.

“O’Connell downplayed rookie CB Akayleb Evans replacing starter Cameron Dantzler. He said Dantzler was still a regular, but added, “We had talked about maybe bringing in Akayleb here and there,” Seifert said tweeted. “An interesting thing to keep in mind. The game wasn’t THAT out of hand.”

While Dantzler played the first half in which the Eagles held a 24-7 lead, neither team scored at all in the second half, leaving plenty of opportunities to close the gap. Seifert added that Dantzler was responsible for the blown cover of Jalen Hurts’ 53-yard touchdown link to Quez Watkins, while safety Cam Bynum was responsible for shooting an intermediate route.

Here’s a closer look at the inflated reporting that was largely a miscommunication in the new system.

Evans finished the game with 21 defensive snaps, all of which came in the second half, compared to Dantzler’s 52 defensive snaps.

We’ve seen it before at Dantzler.

After an impressive rookie season playing for the final phase of the schedule at the Pro Bowl level, Dantzler ended up in Mike Zimmer’s kennel in 2021. The Vikings signed several veteran corners, relegating Dantzler to rotational and special team roles. Zimmer issued an ultimatum to Dantzler at a September 2021 press conference, saying, “If you’re a substitute, you have to play against special teams.”

He put up with some mounting struggles, though he vented his frustration through cryptic social media posts.

But after being benched twice in the first three weeks against Bashaud Breeland, who was the league’s lowest-rated corner for much of the 2021 season by Pro Football Focus, Dantzler had had enough.

He took his grievances to social media, tweeting, “I’m tired of biting my tongue” after not playing against the Seattle Seahawks and watching Breeland throw nine receptions on nine targets for 102 yards and a touchdown allowed. It proved to be a canary for the spate of problems within the building that came to light after Zimmer was fired.

Dantzler has grown since then, saying that last season “it was quite a surprise to be on the bench but I feel like it made me humiliated and hungry”.

O’Connell dodges any public admission that Dantzler was at fault on Monday after the corner took his starting role in the third year and the Vikings coach is likely to accept there will be lessons to be learned under a new system for defense.

However, it remains to be seen how long Dantzler will be on the leash in his starting role, especially with Andrew Booth Jr. also joining the team in the second round this season.

Dantzler has grown since then, saying that last season “it was quite a surprise to be on the bench but I feel like it made me humiliated and hungry”.

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