5 Vikings players with the most to prove in Week 1 vs. the Bengals

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) Ihmir Smith-Marsette
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) Ihmir Smith-Marsette /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Danielle Hunter /

Danielle Hunter – DE

Danielle Hunter‘s place in this list may come as no surprise to Vikings fans. Hunter missed the entirety of the 2020 season after suffering a neck injury that required him to have surgery.

Leading up to the 2020 campaign, there was a lot of hype around the star defensive end, as he was coming off his second consecutive 14.5 sack season, and he looked poised for another stellar year.

This past offseason, there were reports that Hunter may hold out if he wasn’t given a new contract. But even after his deal was restructured, the questions about his future are still in the air.

If Hunter had played the full 2020 season and put up similar numbers as the years prior, a contract extension would be a no-brainer. But that is not the case right now.

All the reports out of this summer’s training camp have were very positive about Hunter and his return to form. But this week’s matchup with the Bengals will be his first test, as he has not played in a game since the Vikings’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs.

There could certainly be some rust for Hunter in this game. But if he were to come out the gates swinging (and kicking doors down as is his signature celebration) he could really start building his case for the major extension that he is searching for.

Coming off a major injury is definitely cause for concern with Hunter, but with all the praise he’s been receiving, it seems like he may not skip a beat.

Vikings fans everywhere are hoping that Hunter can play at the star level he’s capable of, as last season was a complete disaster all along the defensive line. Minnesota was in the bottom three for QB pressures last year, a clear sign of how badly they were missing Hunter’s presence.

This Week 1 matchup against Cincinnati could be a big indicator of how the 2021 season will go, and this defensive line will only go as far as Hunter goes.