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Lunchbreak: Focus Will Be on Vikings Cornerbacks in 2020

There has been plenty of focus on the Vikings cornerbacks in 2020, as that position group has undergone plenty of turnover.

And with the regular season less than two weeks away, plenty of people are interested to see how that group performs in the coming months.

ESPN writer Bill Barnwell looked at 20 teams he expects to be contenders this season — and included the Vikings in that group — along with areas that could make or break their season.

Barnwell is among those interested in Minnesota’s cornerbacks, highlighting that group as a position to watch in 2020.

Barnwell wrote:

Minnesota will now start over with younger corners. Mike Hughes, a first-round pick in 2018, impressed as a rookie before tearing his ACL. Holton Hill was competent after missing eight games via suspension last year, while fellow undrafted free agent Kris Boyd should be in the mix as a reserve corner and special-teamer.

The other starting job is the one we're concerned about, because it involves a pair of rookies. First-rounder Jeff Gladney is coming off a meniscus tear and might not be 100% to start the season. Rookie cornerbacks typically struggle when they're healthy, let alone when they're dealing with an injury.

Third-rounder Cameron Dantzler could begin the season as a starter. Coach Mike Zimmer has encouraged both the Vikings and Bengals (when he was there as a defensive coordinator) to load up on cornerbacks in the top two rounds and has a great track record of bringing them along, but he typically doesn't play them much as rookies. In 2020, he likely has no choice.

As the 2020 season begins, there is a chance that Minnesota has three new starters at cornerback.

Hughes is the most experienced starter with five games, while Hill has four starts in his career.

And while no other cornerback on the Vikings roster has an NFL start, rookies Gladney and Dantzler fared well in training camp.

Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones commented Sunday on a video conference with the Twin Cities media about the cornerbacks.

"So far the experience has been pretty good," Jones said. "You're always excited to work with a talented group like we have, the young corners.

"Not working with them in the offseason, you definitely were looking forward to it when we started the training camp," Jones added. "And they're trying to do everything that we're asking them to do, so it's been full of pleasure."

Frelund ranks Smith, Harris as top safety duo

While it may take the cornerbacks mentioned above some time to get up to speed this season, those players also have the luxury of playing with two great safeties.

In fact, Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network ranked the duo of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris as the No. 1 safety tandem among all NFL teams.

Frelund compiled her rankings in video form, with Smith and Harris taking the top spot.

Smith has made five consecutive Pro Bowls, and Harris tied for the league lead with six interceptions in 2019.

Jones also mentioned how that duo has helped the entire secondary in camp.

"It's been great. The leadership that Anthony and Harrison have provided has been great. It's unspeakable," Jones said. "You can't really gauge that. Harrison, the years of service, taking these young guys under his belt. Sharing with them certain things that he's picked up along his way. Anthony Harris [is] doing the same thing.

"You watch how they're pulling these young guys aside and say, 'Hey, this has helped me in my career and maybe could help you in the future,'" Jones said. "Just being that mentor to the young guys has really taken a totally new aspect and approach to how they are bringing these guys along and helping us get better in that way."

Frelund ranked the Bears safeties at 15, the Lions at 17 and the Packers at 20.