The Washington Commanders have added depth to their cornerback room by claiming Cameron Dantzler Sr. off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings. Here are five things to know about Washington's newest defensive back.
1. He has an awesome nickname.
There are a lot of nicknames in the NFL. Most of them are iffy at best, so the good ones really stand out. Dantzler's nickname of "The Needle" might be one of the most fitting ways to describe the veteran and his playing style.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Dantzler has always been one of the cornerbacks on whatever roster he's on. The only cornerback on the Commanders' roster taller than him is Benjamin St-Juste at 6-foot-3. He is also one of the lightest players; the Commanders' website has him listed at 188, which is the second lowest on the team.
So, how did Dantzler get "The Needle" nickname at St. Thomas Aquinas High School?
"I was always skinny, and when I hit you, it hurt," Dantzler said when he was drafted by the Vikings.
2. He has a history of holding his own against top receivers.
Dantzler was a solid player for the Mississippi State Bulldogs from 2017-19, recording 78 tackles, 18 pass breakups and five interceptions, and he routinely found himself lined up against some of the best receivers in college football.
Back in 2019 -- his last season with the Bulldogs – Dantzler was staring down LSU wideout Ja'Marr Chase, who was on his way to securing the Biletnikoff Award for being the best receiver in the country. That season, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, and while LSU did beat Mississippi State handily that season, Chase had problems getting past Dantzler all day.
Dantzler and Chase matched up 12 times during the game, and all that the wideout could get was one reception. Dantzler, meanwhile, had two pass breakups, and Joe Burrow didn't even try to target his best receiver on the other plays.
There are plenty of quality receivers in the NFC East, so the Commanders will need that kind of production from Dantzler in 2023.
3. He played quarterback in high school.
Dantzler has been a defensive back since his high school days, but that wasn't the only way he was helping St. Thomas Aquinas win games. He was also lining up under center and picking apart defenses with both through the air and on the ground.
As St. Thomas Aquinas' starting quarterback, Dantzler passed for 1,381 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,906 yards and 26 scores as a senior. That helped the Falcons secure a 12-1 record and a trip to the state playoffs.
Once the season was over, Dantzler was named to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 2A All-State team in 2015 and was the 2014 All-District 7-2A MVP. So, there should never be any doubt that Dantzler has the athleticism to thrive in the NFL.
4. He was productive in three seasons with the Vikings.
Dantzler never started more than 10 games in a season with the Vikings, but that did not prevent him from being one of the defense's most productive defensive backs.
Dantzler, a third-round pick by the Vikings in 2020, has been a starter more often than not with 26 starts in 35 games. Dantzler did not play much in the second half of the 2022 season, but he has recorded at least 50 tackles in each of the last two seasons and has three interceptions in his career to go with 17 pass breakups. Dantzler has also forced three fumbles with two recoveries.
Dantzler has been a consistent cover corner with the Vikings with at least a 60 in the category from Pro Football Focus over the last three seasons.
5. He brings starting experience to the Commanders' secondary.
The Commanders are confident in many of the cornerbacks they have on the roster, including Danny Johnson, who has reportedly re-signed with the Commanders, but it was clear that the group needed depth once William Jackson III was traded and St-Juste sprained his ankle.
The defense still gave up the third-fewest passing yards in 2022, but explosive plays became a problem at points in the second half of the season. Dantzler might not be a Week 1 starter for the Commanders with Kendall Fuller and St-Juste on the outside, but he does provide the Commanders with an experienced player as a backup in case one of those players goes down in a similar fashion to last year.
And while the Commanders are likely not done adding to the position, players like Dantzler, who has plenty of starts under his belt, are a commodity that Commanders need as they prepare for the 2023 season.