Minnesota Vikings star defensive end Danielle Hunter will miss at least three games after being placed on the injured reserve (IR) list.
Hunter has been dealing with an undisclosed injury and was previously listed as doubtful for Week 1 given he had not practiced since mid-August.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the team placed him on IR after another missed practice on Wednesday.
The #Vikings have placed DE Danielle Hunter on Injured Reserve, meaning he’ll miss at least 3 games. He did not practice today.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 9, 2020
This is a tough blow for the Vikings, who open their season Sunday night with a pivotal NFC North showdown with the Green Bay Packers.
Hunter has been a menace over the past couple years. The former third-round pick posted back-to-back campaigns with at least 14.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss and 19 quarterback hits. He was also named to the Pro Bowl in both 2018 and 2019.
Minnesota allowed Everson Griffen to walk in free agency, but filled the other edge-rusher spot by trading for Jacksonville Jaguars standout Yannick Ngakoue. It seemed the priority would once again be getting to opposing quarterbacks.
However, it remains to be seen when Hunter will take the field.
The 25-year-old must be severely limited from a physical standpoint, otherwise it seems unlikely the Vikings would have placed him on IR so quickly. In any case, there will be even more pressure on Ngakoue to set the edge and make plays in the backfield.
Minnesota ranked fourth in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) on the defensive side of the ball last year, per Football Outsiders.
But the Vikings also lost a slew of cornerbacks and will have some inexperience in the secondary. The pass-rushing unit will be vital to the defense's continued success, though they will have to do it without Hunter for at least the first three weeks.