Xavier Rhodes: Why the Vikings CB Will Do Big Things in 2014

2013 proved one of the Minnesota Vikings’ best draft years to date. The Vikes grabbed first-rounders Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 23, 25 and 29, respectively. Patterson delivered an outstanding rookie year, making his mark offensively and guaranteeing to be one of the top receivers in the game.

On defense, though, in an area where Minnesota has historically struggled, Rhodes impressed fans with his speed from Day 1.  He logged a 4.43 40-yd-dash at the NFL combine, and that explosiveness carried over into games.  Rhodes was not perfect—and has plenty left to improve upon—but he showed the kind of promise that hasn’t been seen from a defensive rookie in MN for quite some time.

Rhodes tallied 48 tackles in his debut season. Let’s put this into perspective.  Former CB Antoine Winfield, one of the best in Vikings history, had 38 tackles as a rookie in 1999. Nobody wants to put the cart before the horse, but it is an interesting comparison to draw.

At 23 years old, Rhodes struggled a bit with penalties in the beginning—oftentimes, his close coverage and quickness crossed the line, drew a yellow flag. Toward the end of November, though, Rhodes’ playing style began to level out. Physicality no longer proved the only aspect of his game, and his numbers reflected the development.  Rhodes combined for 13 tackles and eight passes defended over three games. Prior to Thanksgiving, the CB had totaled only two passes defended all season.

“[Rhodes] is starting to make more plays now,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He’s playing with more confidence. [I’m] seeing some things you’d like to see long-term […]he’s beginning to hit his stride now.”

The rookie developed a physical edge and dexterity to his game, and he looked to be finishing out the season with a bang.

“The next step is, some of those balls he’s knocking down, they can turn into interceptions,” Frazier said. “When I was watching one of those balls he got his hands on […] I was saying, ‘man, a year from now, that’s going to be an interception.’ He’ll have the confidence to not go up with one hand, but two and catch the ball. This is where he is in his development, so hopefully he’ll keep growing.”

(photo credit: www.rantsports.com)
(photo credit: www.rantsports.com)

Unfortunately for Minnesota, Rhodes suffered an ankle injury on Dec. 15 against Philadelphia. The damage sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

If Rhodes had finished out the season, he would have no doubt continued to improve with each game.  You can be sure that he will come out for the 2014-15 season raring to go. The CB left on a high note, and that confidence and energy will carry through the offseason and into next year.

Rhodes will play a major role in the Vikings defensive scheme in 2014.  Especially with a new coaching staff led by former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, fans can expect big things from the second-year CB.  Zimmer can be credited with the turnaround of Adam “Pacman” Jones in Cincinnatihe is no stranger to guiding young athletes and pulling out every bit of potential.  He comes to Minny with the defensive mind that the team needs to succeed; we can expect Rhodes to thrive under new and rejuvenated direction.

In addition, Rhodes will likely not automatically inherit the starting slot, which may actually be to his advantage.  Fellow CB Josh Robinson missed several games last season due to injury, and he and Rhodes can be expected to duel it out for the starting position when they both return healthy.  That early motivation is good for any player, and a sense of competition will hopefully increase performances and consistency.

The 2014 NFL season is a mere six months away … and Xavier Rhodes is ready to make an impact.




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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report, KSTP.com, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for Timberwolves.com and is a freelance writer for Vikings.com. You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Finally something looking up in that awful secondary. I too think this kid is going to be special. But as Cal said they still need at least 1 more.

    1. Definitely agree with you guys — I think there are still missing pieces, but Rhodes is really going to develop into something good for us!

  2. At least one more I would say. He will probably be even better playing with a up to date defense that Zimmer will bring instead of that vanilla Tampa 2 POS that Alan Williams ran.

  3. Good story Lindsey…I like Rhodes, and agree that he will become a great corner.

    One thing though…you said, “On defense, though, in an area where Minnesota has historically struggled…” I believe that between 1968 and 1977 the Minnesota D was one of the best ever…Purple People Eaters. Then from 1987 to 1992, that was a very good defense. And recently, 06′- 08′, a 3 year run on leading the league against the run.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I would have to agree with you, and my statement may have been a bit too strong. We have struggled to defend the pass for so long that I tend to think negatively about it, but you’re absolutely right about the run defense.

      1. Yep, the recent play of the pass D has been horrible. Maybe even worse then horrible.
        I’ve been around a few years, and that D from the 70’s was so good…when I think of the Vikings historically, that’s what comes to my brain.

  4. I like professor X but he does worry me. The talent is there to be a beast but he’s close to becoming “that guy”. Everyone who played football has always known the guy who seems to get injured every game. When he was taken out of the game 4 times in 3 weeks it just worried me, hopefully it was a fluke.