Xavier Rhodes is finally getting the national attention he deserves. After a two-interception performance against the Arizona Cardinals, Rhodes was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, the first such honor in his four-year career.
Prior to his breakout game against the Cardinals, Rhodes had put together an impressive 2016 campaign. The former Florida State Seminole eliminated top wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin early in the year, demonstrating tangible growth as a shutdown corner.
This year, Rhodes has 29 combined tackles, four interceptions, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble and one tackle for a loss, per Minnesota’s own tallies. His four interceptions lead Mike Zimmer’s defense and represent a career-high for Rhodes, who had just two total interceptions prior to 2016.
On the record-setting note, Rhodes also penned his name in the Minnesota Vikings history books. His 100-yard interception return touchdown on Sunday was the longest in Vikings history. And his teammates, including the already-elite Harrison Smith, are taking notice of their teammate’s stellar play.[quote_center]”He’s playing lights out. Those are obviously huge splash plays that everyone notices, but he’s tackling. He’s doing everything right, he’s playing lights out.”[/quote_center]
Given he’s already been named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week, it’s only fitting we name Rhodes Vikings Territory’s Player of the Week. Yes, we’re changing the format of the post — and we’re a little late — but Rhodes was far and away the most deserving candidate.
His interception return halted all of Arizona’s momentum, flipping the game back in favor of the Vikings and giving the team a lead they wouldn’t surrender the rest of the way. Danielle Hunter did his part to ensure a Vikings victory, wrapping up Palmer for two sacks, but no player’s contributions mattered more than Rhodes’.
Tomorrow, Rhodes will have his hands full with the Detroit Lions’ Golden Tate, who burned the cornerback for a game-winning touchdown when the teams last met in Week 9. To win, the Vikings need Rhodes to play as he did against the Cardinals — as an elite cornerback.