Xavier Rhodes is having, by all accounts, a very good sophomore season for the Minnesota Vikings. He has had the job of being the Vikings’ No. 1 cornerback, which means he has to cover the other team’s No. 1 receiver for a majority of the game, and this season he has had to go up against the likes of Julio Jones in Atlanta, Jordy Nelson in Green Bay, and Brandon Marshall in Chicago.
Even though there have been a couple moments throughout the season he would like to have back, for the most part it has been a season of continued improvement. He only has one interception – the only one of his career – but he is usually in good position and contesting passes, and that is what head coach Mike Zimmer is looking for.
“I know he doesn’t have a lot of interceptions,” Zimmer said. “… For us, there’s a lot to do with contested catches and if you’re on the guy, and if your guy is not catching the ball that’s a big plus too.”
Rhodes has had the ability to take players out the game and cause incompletions on a lot of passes. According to Pro Football Focus, opponents are completing passes 53.4 percent of the time – 31-for-58 – against Rhodes, and when some of his opposing quarterbacks are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, that is pretty impressive.
Last week against the Packers, Rodgers completed only 2 of 6 passes targeted Rhodes’ way for 18 yards, according to Viking Update’s charting of the game.
Rhodes is a big cornerback – measuring in at 6-foot-1 and weighing 210 – especially when compared to his fellow cornerbacks, Captain Munnerlyn (5-foot-9, 195 pounds) and Josh Robinson (5-foot-10, 199 pounds).
That size and strength allows him to be physical with receivers, which ultimately helps his game as he is able to disrupt the timing of the receivers’ routes.
“X (Xavier Rhodes), he’s doing a great job, man,” said Munnerlyn. “Having a great year, just got to keep it going. He’s being real physical and going out there and making plays, getting his hands on balls, and that’s the key.”
Quarterbacks have only a 72.0 rating against Rhodes, according to PFF.
However, Rhodes’ physical play has gotten him in trouble at times. On the season, Rhodes has drawn nine penalties – four defensive holding, two pass interference, two illegal contacts and one offensive holding on special teams – but some of that is because of all the rules favoring receivers. When a cornerback is being physical with receivers, flags can follow.
Although Zimmer would prefer to not have the penalties called against his team, he did not seem to be all that upset when talking about Rhodes drawing as many penalties as he does.
“If you’re getting, as I was saying before, the penalties, obviously we don’t want those, but some guys probably aren’t close enough to get penalties,” said Zimmer. “At least we’re on guys, on top of them, we’re fighting them, competing against them, so he’s doing better there.”
The head coach did say that they have been working with Rhodes on how “an open hand is a closed hand” because that is where a lot of his penalties are coming from.
Rhodes is still a very young player – 24 years old and in his second year – and although he is playing well already and Zimmer trusts him to guard receivers one-on-one on the outside, Zimmer thinks he can be even better.
“He is still a young, young guy in development of where I think his football career can go,” said Zimmer. “But it’s nice to have a guy where you can say, ‘Hey, you got this guy and let’s go.’”
Rhodes building an impressive second season
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