Wednesday, September 20, 2017

xavier rhodes

[NOTE FROM ADAM:  Please welcome reader “Carl K” for joining the ranks of many of you fine readers that have submitted guest posts over the years.  Well done, Carl K, well done!]

Written By Carl K

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams has a little more swagger heading into his second season thanks to a successful first year and an off-season that landed him a few more playmakers. GM Rick Spielman made a splash by drafting DT Sharrif Floyd and CB Xavier Rhodes in the first round of the NFL draft. The Vikings also drafted linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti along with signing free agent linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Williams is eager to see his squad put on the pads and mix it up in training camp, but he was quick to give Xavier Rhodes some praise after a solid OTA mini camp. “He got his hands on some balls and he’s not giving up deep balls. That’s the big thing because a lot of guys like to sit on passes and you see them intercept balls and you say “wow” and then a lot of balls are going over his head. And he’s not giving up either. He’s tough down low and up top.”

Williams is a former defensive backs coach with the Indianapolis Colts and you can tell he is very excited about his two big physical corners Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes. “Both guys are tall. They are long. They can go get the ball, unbelievable ball skills so to be able to have two guys outside and don’t forget about Josh, don’t forget about the other guys that can really run. They’re physical so you’re not limited to one type of defense. You can play a variety of things and when you can take the outside guys away it makes it easier for me to make the calls and mixing up the coverages.”

Alan Williams has plenty of talent, depth and options to work with when it comes to drawing up defensive schemes heading into the 2013 season. So, with just days before the start of training camp, I can only speculate and conjure up images of how Williams will use his new personnel. Last season the Vikings lined up in a nickel cover 2 zone most of the time. I expect to see more of that again this year against the pass happy NFC North teams . However, with two big corners on the outside that can press and Josh Robinson over the slot, we just might see more man coverage. If the Vikings can have success in man coverage from the base 4-3 or in a nickel, Williams could get creative with some hybrid formations or personnel groupings. Three linebackers, three corners and a single high safety could allow Desmond to do what he does best… play down hill and put some pressure on the QB. Gerald Hodges is former safety with good coverage instinct so I expect to see him get some playing time in passing situations. The Vikings cover 2 defense typically doesn’t showcase a lot of man coverage, blitz packages from the linebackers or hybrid formations, but this year Williams could show the NFC North quarterbacks a new wrinkle.

Jerry Jones is known for being a business guru and one of the most tenacious, and invasive, owners the NFL has ever seen.  For some reason, though, the Dallas Cowboys have become somewhat of a joke (loving this sentence so far) and the latest episode involves yet another leak of their draft board.  The folks at Blogging The Boys managed to decrypt the background of some photos and reveal a full seven-round draft board in the Cowboys war room.

The results show, among other things, that the selection of center Travis Frederick was indeed a reach by their own assessment which solidifies reports that the pick was a contentious one between various members of the team’s brass.  The Cowboys have Frederick with a second round grade, according to the report, and the Cowboys selected him at #31 after trading backwards with the Niners.  Five players that they graded as first round prospects were available to them at #18 and they could have had their pick of the bunch had they not traded down.

The other items you might find most interesting about this revelation are where the Vikings selections stacked up on the Dallas board.  Sharrif Floyd was not only their highest ranked defensive tackle, but he was ranked as the fifth best player in this class.  Wide out Cordarrelle Patterson was also the highest ranked at his position and came in at 13th overall for the ‘Boys.  Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was their second highest cornerback and they had him at 11th overall.

That means that the Vikings, who never owned a pick higher than 23rd this year, managed to get three prospects on their roster that were in the top 13 on the Dallas draft board.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys went into the event with the 18th selection, and managed to get zero players that they had graded out as first rounders.

To top it off, the Cowboys had third round grades on both linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, whom the Vikings nabbed in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively.

The Vikings and Cowboys have a long and bitter history, with the Vikings a lot more bitter than the Cowboys, so these are the little pleasures we have to enjoy from time to time.  According to Jerry Jones’ draft board itself, we got ourselves three franchise players in the Draft, and unlike the Cowboys of the 90’s we didn’t have to deal away our star running back to do it.

Chris Cook hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable in his first three NFL seasons.  Multiple injuries and multiple off-field troubles have kept him out of action all too often.  These problems are really the only reasons to consider this to possibly be Cook’s last season in Minnesota, because he has otherwise been a very solid contributor on Sundays, and even more is expected of him during his contract year in 2013.

Cook may not be able to control his medical status as the season wears on, but it sounds like he is trying to keep from letting another knucklehead incident off the field keep him from cashing in on a second contract, as he is distracting himself by continuing his studies at the University of Virginia.

“I just felt like it was something that would keep me grounded, just to keep me from doing too much partying — too much of stuff that I didn’t need to be doing,” Cook told 1500 ESPN. “It’s definitely helped me focus, kept me in one place, not traveling all over the place, having something to focus on definitely helped me out.”

Cook is probably wise to stay out of trouble this offseason if he wants his next contract to be with the Vikings, and that sounds like the case, as another incident would surely be enough reason to show him the door despite his talent.

“I’m looking forward to coming back if that’s in the cards, and I definitely would love to stay here,” he said of his future with the team. “It’s a contract year, but I’m not playing for a contract. I’m just playing for a good year and playing for this team.”

The VIkings created a large duo of cornerbacks when they drafted Xavier Rhodes to play across from Cook, and that is a good thing considering the receivers in the NFC North, but Cook joked that the rookie should let him do the heavy listing when the season rolls around.

“Just let me handle them,” is what Cook said he told Rhodes about Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

He went on to say that the duo will be asked to play more press coverage than we have seen from the Vikings secondary in the recent past.  He also says that the loss of Antoine Winfield will not cause the Vikings defensive backfield to struggle moving forward.

“I definitely know we’re going to play a lot more press coverage, because we have two big guys on the outside now,” Cook said. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier likes those type of guys on the outside. Everybody seems to like bigger guys on the outside now, and it’s because of the big receivers now.”

“We’ve got a lot of young, hungry guys. We put in a lot of extra time and we communicate very well and we spend a lot of time together bonding. … I don’t think we’ll be what people think we’ll be. I think we’ll be probably, most definitely a top secondary this year.”

That’s a pretty bold statement for a guy that has missed more games than he has played, especially with their fearless leader now in Seattle, but it isn’t too inconceivable that the Vikings secondary could be an improved unit this year.  The addition of Rhodes, and the possible improvement of young players like Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, could indeed be a recipe for success in 2013.

At the very least, the confidence to press opposing receivers should create more opportunities for a very talented defensive line to torment quarterbacks all season long.

The Vikings opened up their rookie minicamp on Friday, and it was the one day that will be open to the media, so we have some actual football tidbits to pass along.  Second-year hopefuls, this offseason’s draft class, and undrafted free agent signings intermingle with players in on a tryout basis to try and shine in front of the coaching staff.  Here is what we know from Day One:

ROOKIE CLASS:  It is apparent, when watching these guys go up against each other, why the Vikings selected the guys they did at the top of the NFL Draft.  All reports seem to indicate that Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, and Cordarrelle Patterson are clearly superior to the rest of the talent that was taking part in the practices.

COLIN ANDERSON:  Chris Kluwe might not be the only special teamer looking over his shoulder these days.  Furman tight end Colin Anderson is an accomplished long snapper and could potentially end up being competition for the team’s longest tenured player, long snapper Cullen Loeffler.  Loeffler is 32 years old and will carry a base salary of $915,00 this season and $1.135 million in 2014.  Anderson claims, however, that he is at Winter Park trying to make the team as a tight end.

MICHAEL MAUTI:  The Vikings didn’t make a huge investment when they selected Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti in the seventh round, but they are hoping to get huge returns.  Mauti is still rehabbing his knee injury, though, and patience will be necessary for those eager to see what he brings to the table.  Still, coach Leslie Frazier was unwilling to crown Erin Henderson the starter at middle linebacker, and says they will take a look at a number of options.

JEFF LOCKE:  Snow forced the Vikings minicamp indoors and fifth round selection Jeff Locke headed to the Metrodome to punt in front of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.  He then returned to Winter Park to take some reps as a field goal holder.  By all accounts, including Locke himself, the first day went well.  We could see Kluwe released as soon as Monday if the Vikings decide they got what they bargained for when they drafted Locke last month.

XAVIER RHODES:  He intercepted the first ball thrown in the first minicamp of his first year in the NFL.  As omens go, that isn’t too shabby.  Rhodes continued to impress throughout the practices and is an early favorite to win a starting job at cornerback, alongside Chris Cook.

DURON CARTER:  The son of the Vikings all-time leading receiver Cris Carter has a rough start to the minicamp, dropping the first three footballs going his way.  Carter improved throughout the day and is hoping to turn his tryout into a roster spot, but he will need to show more improvement if he wants to stick with the Vikings for the long haul.

 

The Vikings announced the signing of 16 free agents on Tuesday after days of trying to track down confirmed reports of who was in, who was not, and who might be getting a crack at the roster.  Here are your 16 guys with a brief note on each:

James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa:  Made a name for himself in 2011, as the best quarterback in the Big Ten, but a miserable season in 2012 killed his draft stock.  The big question is whether or not the struggles were his fault or a result of the talent around him.

Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina:  A tough and physical receiver, but struggled to get separation in college, and doesn’t have the athleticism to do it as a pro.  Across the middle, in the end zone, and on special teams is where he can make himself stand out.  Not a big play type of guy.

Nicholas Edwards, WR, Eastern Washington:  A big receiver that seemed to be on the rise prior to a knee injury that hampered his senior season.  Like Highsmith, he is more of a possession and end zone receiver, and won’t win a roster spot based off of explosive upside.

Brandan Bishop, S, N.C. State:  Limited athleticism here means a limited ceiling, but Bishop arguably displays more consistency in every facet of his game than Robert Blanton, who the Vikings drafted last year, did coming out of Notre Dame.  If you are looking for a guy with a real shot to stick, this might be him.

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