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Lunchbreak: Cronin Checks In On Jefferson & Gladney's Progression

When the 2020 NFL season kicks off next week, hundreds of players will make their NFL debuts.

The Vikings will have plenty of players included in that group, most likely including their pair of 2020 first-round picks in wide receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney.

ESPN recently looked at where all 32 first-rounders stand with the season nearing its start, with ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin providing an update on Jefferson and Gladney.

Cronin wrote about Jefferson:

The former LSU star is panning out to be "exactly what we drafted," according to Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. Jefferson's proficient route running and experience in a pro-style offense gave him an early leg up in training camp. Jefferson is the Vikings No. 3 receiver right now with Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson ahead of him when the team deploys two-receiver sets, but you can expect him to get ample work in the slot early on when the team goes three-wide. Expect his role to increase over time as he builds chemistry with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in the draft, helped LSU win a national title in 2019. He tied for the national lead in 2019 with 111 receptions (a single-season school record), ranked third in FBS with 1,540 yards and finished second with 18 touchdowns catches.

The wide receiver, who is 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, has progressed nicely in camp and should play a key role in 2020.

As for Gladney, the 31st overall pick, Cronin wrote:

Minnesota's second first-round pick has taken a lot of reps in the slot, rotating with third-year cornerback Mike Hughes, and lined up outside with the second unit throughout camp. His versatility in playing both positions allows the Vikings flexibility in where they line him up based on specific matchups. Gladney's "got a lot of confidence," Coach Mike Zimmer said, and has bounced back well from the March surgery he had to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Aside from being held back slightly at the beginning of camp, Gladney has been full go and is primed for a big role in the Vikings secondary.

Gladney started 42 of 50 career games at TCU. He tied for second in the conference with 15 passes defended in 2019, including 14 pass breakups, which led Big 12 and tied for eighth-most nationally.

FOX 9 to re-air 'Minneapolis Miracle' at 6 p.m. Sunday

FOX 9 will air its fourth and final Vikings Preseason Primetime at 5:30 p.m. (CT) Sunday, and the show will be followed at 6 p.m. (CT) by Minnesota's unforgettable 29-24 playoff win over New Orleans from January of 2018.

In other words, FOX 9 is re-airing the "Minneapolis Miracle" game on Sunday evening.

The Divisional Round playoff matchup featured a battle of division winners, as Minnesota claimed the NFC North with a 13-3 mark, and New Orleans won the NFC South at 11-5.

The Vikings, who had earned a first-round bye, stormed out of the gates to a 17-0 halftime lead behind rushing touchdowns from Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, plus a Kai Forbath field goal.

But New Orleans rallied in the second half. Drew Brees threw three touchdowns — including two to Michael Thomas — and the Saints took a 21-20 lead with three minutes left in regulation.

Then the fun really began.

Quarterback Case Keenum led the Vikings in scoring range, where Forbath drilled a 53-yard field goal for a 23-21 lead with 89 seconds to go.

But Brees — a surefire Hall of Famer — put his own team in scoring range. A 43-yard kick from Wil Lutz gave New Orleans a 24-23 lead with 25 seconds left.

But there was enough time for a miracle finish, as Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game.

U.S. Bank Stadium erupted into delirium as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer notched his first playoff victory, which sent the Vikings to the NFC title game.

Click here for an oral history of the "Minneapolis Miracle."