The Minnesota Vikings have reloaded quickly in the secondary, and it could pay dividends early.
It was a tough offseason for the Minnesota Vikings secondary. Despite retaining safety duo Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, the cornerback room got very small back in March.
Xavier Rhodes was released by the organization, and both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander moved on in free agency.
Before the draft, the corner room consisted of 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes, 2019 seventh-round pick Kris Boyd, and undrafted free agent Holton Hill. In the 2020 NFL Draft, Minnesota made a point to address the corner position, selecting both Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler on the first two days of the draft.
Gladney was one of this writer’s top corners in the 2020 draft. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage, and also shows good transitional quickness with fluid hips and great footwork.
Gladney has the straight-line speed to stick with receivers vertically, and that transitional quickness helps him over the middle of the field in man coverage.
While man coverage ability is paramount, Gladney has flashed good instincts in zone coverage as well. Perhaps the best part of Gladney’s game is his ball skills. He had incredible production at TCU with five interceptions and 37 pass breakups. He will compete at the catch point and make life difficult for opposing receivers.
Then there’s Dantzler, who wins primarily with physicality and length. He’s patient at the line of scrimmage and uses his length to re-route wide receivers immediately off the snap. Dantzler is also physical at every stage in coverage, from the snap to the top of routes and down the field. Despite his disappointing 40 time of 4.64 seconds, Dantzler has shown the ability to stay at the hip with receivers vertically.
Back at the combine, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer talked briefly about the addition of Dom Capers to his defensive staff and discussed how Minnesota might move to a hybrid scheme with some 3-4 and 4-3 mixed in. Zimmer has run a lot of zone blitz in the past and brought pressure from different areas to confuse quarterbacks.
Some things won’t change though. Zimmer had Rhodes as his press man corner for several seasons, and Dantzler could be in a position to fill that role sooner than later. He’s already made quite an impression in camp, especially on wide receiver Adam Thielen. Dantzler broke up a couple of passes during one-on-one reps against Thielen.
It doesn’t mean much, but Gladney is already listed as a starter for the Vikings. As a first-round pick in a depleted group, it’s likely he starts as the boundary corner for their opener and won’t look back.
As both are physical corners with length and ball skills, the duo of Jeff Gladney and Cam Dantzler is going to be fun to watch for the Minnesota Vikings and could make an early impact in what should be a tough NFC North division in 2020.