Minnesota Vikings cornerback Jeff Gladney has become a man of few words.
After flawlessly toeing the line between confident and cocky as a first-round pick on draft night, Gladney has been reduced to cuddling up to cliches any chance he gets
Perhaps he’s trying to let his play speak for itself.
After barely seeing the field in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers, Gladney has seen a steady uptick in usage, most recently playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in last Sunday’s 27-26 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.
Gladney no longer looks completely out of place on the field after being picked on by opposing quarterbacks early in his NFL career. Going up against MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson last weekend, Gladney held his own for the most part, containing slot receiver Tyler Locket when lining up as the nickel cornerback, and limiting the behemoth DK Metcalf when lining up as the outside cornerback.
“That growth, to me, is coming from reps,” Gladney said. “The more reps I get, the better I feel, and the more comfortable I am.”
That comfort has bred confidence, too, evidenced by the fact that the 5-foot-10 Gladney refused to back down from the 6-foot-4 Metcalf last weekend during a shoving match after the whistle.
That minor scuffle seemed to impress coach Mike Zimmer. He loves when his cornerbacks play with an edge, and Gladney certainly fits that mold.
“He’s a tough kid,” Zimmer said. “He’s got a lot on his plate, playing inside and outside, and I think he’s feeling more comfortable each and every week. He’s been getting a lot of playing time, and (defensive backs coach) Daronte Jones is doing a good job with these young kids.”
That said, Gladney is far from a finished product, and heading into a must-win game against the lowly Atlanta Falcons this weekend, there’s a chance the dynamic duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley could present some problems for the Vikings’ young secondary.
Not that he seemed too concerned. He downplayed the matchup and shifted the focus to what the Vikings have to do to have success.
“They’ve got nice deep threats in Julio and Calvin, and we are just going to have to limit those guys,” Gladney said. “Take the deep shots away and we should be straight.”
While he’s definitely oversimplifying the position on the surface, and refusing to say too much during interviews, Gladney hasn’t lost any of his confidence. His teammates seem to appreciate that.
“He’s getting better every game,” rookie receiver Justin Jefferson said. “It’s still early in the season, and we are still learning and we are still picking up on different things. I think the more we play, the more we see, and he’s been doing a great job just picking up on different stuff. I’m excited to see what he has down the road.”