For years now, the Minnesota Vikings have been tirelessly trying to put together a defensive backfield that can slow down the high-octane passing attacks of the NFC North. While the puzzle isn’t yet complete, rookie Xavier Rhodes could be the piece that puts the picture into perspective.
A first-round pick for the Vikings back in April, Rhodes is expected to make an immediate impact in Minnesota. With a cloudy situation still looming at the cornerback position, the rookie’s presence should provide some clarity amidst the confusion.
Once training camp opens, there’s a good chance that Rhodes will be lined up across from Chris Cook, a three-year NFL veteran, as one of the Vikings’ two starting cornerbacks. Although it appears that the starting gig is currently his to lose, Rhodes will face stiff competition as he settles in.
The biggest threat to Rhodes’ snaps in 2013 is Josh Robinson, a 2012 third-round pick who showed some promise throughout his rookie season. While he often struggled in coverage, allowing a significant amount of passes thrown his way to be completed, he displayed some of the playmaking that the Vikings had been lacking for years. It might not be enough to unseat Rhodes, but it will certainly force the rookie to be at his best.
The only other cornerback who could push Rhodes for playing time is Jacob Lacey, a free acquisition who spent last season with the Detroit Lions. While he has shown some potential as a starter, his small frame and inconsistent coverage should keep him from putting too much pressure on Rhodes.
Once Rhodes arrives for training camp, the Vikings will be expecting the No. 25 overall pick in 2013 to show off the physicality and well-rounded coverage skills that made him a first-rounder. Assuming he can do that, the Florida State alum shouldn’t have too much trouble nailing down the starting job opposite Cook.
We’ll see if he can bring it when training camp arrives or if playing against stiff competition like Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson will be too much for the young cornerback.