The Minnesota Vikings attempted to shore up many positions of need this past draft, and finally Xavier Rhodes has joined Cordarrelle Patterson as a constant contributor for the team. Rhodes is coming off two notable games as he batted four passes against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago and deflected one more this past Sunday against the Chicago Bears in his effort to effectively contain Brandon Marshall.
Rhodes has been showing an increased ability to stay with receivers when in press coverage and is beginning to finally look to make a play on balls thrown his way. Prior to his performance against the Packers, Rhodes was having a relatively quiet season and was never a serious contender to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. With how physical Rhodes has played against some of the league’s better receivers, however, he’s put himself in the position to garner more attention in the coming weeks.
The Vikings play the Baltimore Ravens this weekend in a game where Rhodes will have the opportunity to shine as Joe Flacco has failed to maintain the high level of play he exhibited in the playoffs last year. Following the Ravens game, however, is when Rhodes will really be tested as he will face the pass-heavy Philadelphia Eagles before facing off with A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson to end the season.
Although he’s looked like a veteran at times recently, it’s still a long shot for Rhodes to perform well in all of the Vikings’ remaining games as he will face three very tough passing attacks and four talented wideouts. The rookie has been making some head turning plays as of late, and if he can turn a few normally batted balls into interceptions there’s a chance he could be taking home some hardware.
The first step in Rhodes’ journey is this weekend as he will match up with the dangerous but under-performing Torrey Smith. Smith has struggled this season without a competent receiver opposite him, and because of it he has struggled to catch half the balls thrown his way. Smith does have an impressive 17 yards per catch average, however, and will test Rhodes often in deep coverage which will show if the first year player really does have a shot at being named the NFL‘s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Vikings and their fans don’t have much to look forward to this year, but if Rhodes can prove to be a true No. 1 corner, this secondary sets up nicely once Harrison Smith returns from his turf toe injury.