Thursday, July 28, 2016

xavier rhodes

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Xavier Rhodes shutdown corner
Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

When the 2014 season came to a close, Xavier Rhodes looked poised for stardom. After an up-and-down rookie campaign—par for the course for NFL defensive backs, even first round picks—Rhodes took a dramatic leap in year two, improving his coverage skills significantly and becoming known as a pass break-up machine. Pro Football Focus rated him as the NFL’s 14th-best corner that year—not Revis status, but a nice ascension for a second-year player. Fueling the narrative of a player on the rise, Rhodes had a downright dominant four-game stretch late in the season in which he allowed only seven catches and a 22.2 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks.

Rhodes blossomed under the tutelage of head coach Mike Zimmer in 2014, Zimmer’s first year at the helm for the Vikings. Zimmer is, of course, known for his defensive pedigree, and it seemed like he was quickly molding Rhodes into a complete, number one corner. The thought after Rhodes’ sophomore season was that, based on his enormous progress in year two, 2015 would be the year he developed into a legitimate shutdown corner, able to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver on a weekly basis.

That hasn’t exactly happened.

Ranking the Vikings first round selections

[Note: This reflection on the Vikings’ success in the first round of the most recent decade’s worth of drafts is provided courtesy of Matt Falk from Draft Season. We highly recommend checking out their site for scouting reports of this year’s top prospects with a Vikings slant.]

Over the past 10 years, the Vikings have done a decent job finding talent in the first round of the NFL Draft. While they’ve have had their share of big misses, they’ve also hit on some stars along the way.

Let’s take a quick look back and attempt to rank them from worst to best.

#12 – 2011 – Christian Ponder QB, Florida St. (12th overall)

It’s hard to not feel bad for Ponder. He really never should of have been the 12th overall pick. Due to where he was selected, fans had some unrealistic expectations. Unsurprisingly, Ponder never panned out and struggled through a rocky four years in Minnesota. You’ve, gotta give the guy credit though; he acted like a true professional during his time in Minnesota.

#11 – 2013 – Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee (29th overall)

Patterson toyed with our emotions during his big rookie season, but has been in a nose dive ever since. While he’s still one of the most dangerous return men in the league, he adds absolutely nothing to the team as a wide receiver. Unless he has a huge turnaround, we won’t be seeing him on the field with the offense, except in August. For now, we’ll just have to get excited when he gets the chance to return a kick.

#10 – 2015 – Trae Waynes (11th overall)

The only reason Waynes is so low on the list is because it’s much too soon to know what we really have in the Michigan State cornerback. He barely saw the field as a rookie, but did show some flashes (along with some growing pains). I would feel confident saying that in a few years, we could see him bumping up at least a few spots on this same list.

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Harrison Smith would be an impact player
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Territory asked, and the readers spoke; in this series of articles, the team will announce the winners of our fan-voted awards, from the Minnesota Vikings’ MVP of 2015 to the Rookie of the Year. Today, a look at the Defensive Player of the Year as voted by you, the fans.

Harrison Smith, FS — Minnesota Vikings

First a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and now, a title as the Vikings Territory Defensive Player of the Year. Though not as grand, the award is important because it comes from the fans of the Minnesota Vikings. Since he was drafted in 2012, Vikings fans have known that Harrison Smith would be an impact player in Minnesota. The award, just like his Pro Bowl invitation, is long overdue, but no less deserved.

He jetted closer to stardom in 2014, the best statistical season of his four-year career. It was Smith’s five interceptions and three sacks that earned him a first-team nod on Pro Football Focus’s All-NFL team, and one could argue he improved his play in 2015. Despite missing nearly four games this year, Smith was a force against the pass and run in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive scheme. “I’m fortunate enough to be in a system where [coach Mike Zimmer] wants us to do all of those things,” he said, per Matt Vensel. “I’m just lucky to be here and happy to be here because of that.”

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Vikings Post-Season Awards
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

If there’s one thing Minnesota Vikings fans can agree on, it’s that the 2015 season didn’t end as well as we all hoped (or thought) it would. At 11-5 and atop the NFC North, Mike Zimmer’s team surprised the NFL world, knocking off the Green Bay Packers to storm into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. But Blair Walsh’s missed last-second field goal ended what had been a promising campaign in Minnesota.

Fortunately, it was a season to remember, and a season to build upon in the coming years. With one of the league’s best coaches at the helm and a young roster built to last, the Vikings should stay competitive in 2016 and beyond. Before we jump too far into the offseason though, now presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on a memorable 2015.

We saw rookies outperform their draft positions and 30 year-old running backs lead the league in rushing. We saw a second-year quarterback shine, and often struggle behind a leaky offensive line. More importantly, we saw a team realize it’s potential and exceed expectations. To celebrate the successful season, we’re asking you to hand out awards to the most deserving Vikings. From the Most Valuable Player to the Rookie of the Year, the power to choose is in your hands. Without further ado, here are your VT post-season awards nominees:

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Merry Christmas, Vikings fans

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Christmas came early for Xavier Rhodes and the Minnesota Vikings defense, who will host the New York Giants — sans Odell Beckham Jr. — this Sunday night. The team’s star wide receiver was suspended for his conduct in yesterday’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Beckham was flagged three times for personal foul penalties and could have been ejected for his actions, which included pushing, shoving, and exchanging punches with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.

The two engaged in a series of violent encounters throughout the game, with the most dangerous and brutal coming on a play that didn’t even involve Beckham. According to SB Nation, Beckham is the first offensive player to ever be suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit:

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