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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings-Eagles matchups to watch: Lane Johnson vs. Danielle Hunter

By Matthew Coller

As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game, we will be highlighting one key matchup every day throughout the week. For part 4, Lane Johnson vs. Danielle Hunter.

Mike Zimmer has said the Minnesota Vikings’ philosophy is not always to go all out looking for sacks, rather to create a “rush plan” that will make the quarterback uncomfortable while still being in place to stop the run. One of the key players for the Vikings in their attack of Nick Foles and the Eagles’ highly-effective running game is defensive end Danielle Hunter, a third-year DE who became a full-time starter this year.

Hunter’s adversary will be veteran tackle Lane Johnson, who has established himself as one of the elite players at his position. Let’s have a look at how they match up…

The stats

Last season, Hunter made a huge jump from 6.0 sacks in his rookie year to 12.5 sacks, which put him in the top-five pass rushers in 2016. And that was despite playing only 58 percent of total snaps.

This year, Hunter was given more responsibility, playing 78 percent of total defensive plays. His sack total dipped to 7.0, but Hunter’s Pro Football Focus grade was higher this season than in 2016. For one, he rated in the top 25 run-stuffing edge defenders. The former LSU Tiger was among the best in the NFL at creating pressure. According to Football Outsiders, he registered 40 pressures, good for 15th in the NFL and only one behind fellow defensive end Everson Griffen.

Johnson ranked sixth by Pro Football Focus ratings. As a pass blocker, he ranked seventh and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Eagles ran 17 percent of their total rushes off the right end, tied for the most in the NFL. Overall, the Eagles were third in rushing yards per attempt and total yards. They ranked 12th in Adjusted Sack Rate.

The skills

Danielle Hunter is one of the most athletic players in the NFL. At the Combine, his measurables compared closely to former No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. Hunter ranked in the 96th percentile for 40-yard dash, 98th in broad jump, 91st in 10-yard split and 64th in bench press.

Over the past two years, he’s quickly developed more pass rush moves, learning to use his long arms to create space between he and the opposing tackle. He is strong enough to plow tackles back into the cornerback or go around the edge.

Johnson received high praise from Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on Thursday.

“Lane Johnson is a great player, not just a good player, a great player,” Zimmer said. “Physical, tough, competitive, athletic, strong. He’s an outstanding player. I don’t know who they had go to the Pro Bowl, but if he didn’t go to the Pro Bowl, something’s wrong.”

The 6-foot-6 tackle is indeed headed to the Pro Bowl.

Below Eagles film analyst points out Johnson’s quickness and mobility. The right tackle sweeps across the formation, blocking the linebacker to create a running lane.

Shot 3 – The beginning of the #Eagles lone TD drive, and this drive was one of my favorites from the year. These are just the first three plays; three completely different runs of 10, 8 and 7 yards to begin the series #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/lNIEEHgGmD

— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 16, 2018

The history

The Vikings’ defense played well against the Eagles offense when they last matched up in 2016, but Johnson was not available due to a suspension. Hunter finished the game without a sack and three tackles.

The X-factor

How many opportunities will Hunter receive to get to the quarterback? The Eagles worked the ball out quickly against the Falcons in the Divisional round and will be expected to do the same against the Vikings. Also with the high number of run-pass options, the DEs will need to be disciplined against the Eagles outstanding OL.

The post Vikings-Eagles matchups to watch: Lane Johnson vs. Danielle Hunter appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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