Xavier Rhodes: ‘I'm still a rookie'

Xavier Rhodes felt a little disappointed with his rookie season and struggled with his confidence. He's feeling like a rookie all over again with a new scheme and new techniques, but reflected on the past and looked forward to the future.

Xavier Rhodes said he was disappointed in his rookie season and still considers himself a rookie, despite what the calendar and his roster designation say.

In some ways, Rhodes was being treated as a rookie at the Minnesota Vikings minicamp this week, but that can be said for multi-year veterans, too. Everyone was learning a new scheme, new techniques and getting used to a new coaching style.

Still, Rhodes appeared to be taking in a lot of advice from head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray.

"It's just probably more me being younger. Like they say, they're always on the rookie and I'm still a rookie to this day," Rhodes said. "I played one season, but I'm not on my second year just yet. He's not only paying attention to me, he's paying attention to the whole defense. I'm the rookie guy, so not only the coaches but the players still pick on me."

Zimmer admitted to spending more time with the defense than offense, and especially the defensive backs. After dishing out one piece of advice and seeing Rhodes apply it, Zimmer said, "You look like a professional DB (defensive back) now."

A little later, Gray told Rhodes and others to "believe what you see" when diagnosing a receiver's route.

Rhodes said the techniques being taught are "only minor differences," but it appears the coaching points are more detailed.

"He's getting a little bit more detailed, wanting us to be in a specific position and have our feet in a specific way," Rhodes said.

The scheme is different, for sure, and Rhodes – like every defensive back this week – admitted that will take time to become rote.

Getting that down will be part of the process for Rhodes to gain his confidence, something he admits he lacked at times last year.

"It's the coaching. They were on me so hard last year, to the point where I know I have to be more confident and depend on my coaches and teammates and be hard on myself, knowing I have teammates to help me out," Rhodes said.

"It was just learning a new scheme. There were mistakes that were made, so I didn't like the mistakes I was making. But the teammates and the coaches lifted me up and I'm here where I am now."

Rhodes said every player always feels he could have done more, but he looks back and doesn't believe he took full advantage of the opportunity he was given.

In his first game as a rookie, he played in 70 of the 80 defensive snaps, but that workload was quickly curtailed. For a three-game, mid-season stretch, he only played in about half the snaps. But in Week 9, he rebounded and played in all but two snaps. Three weeks later, he played every defensive down. When it was all said and done, despite missing the final three weeks with injury, he played in 58.8 percent of the snaps and made six starts.

He easily led the team with 23 passes defensed (Marcus Sherels was second with 14) and led all cornerbacks with 61 tackles.

This year, after working on improving his technique and becoming comfortable with the scheme, it will be mostly about maintaining his confidence.

"You have to be comfortable and confident as a corner. You've got to have that being out there on the field because it's you and the receiver," he said. "They're basically throwing it at the receiver and he's confident he's going to get the ball, and we have to be confident we can stop him from getting the ball. You have to have confidence."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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