The Minnesota Vikings are starting over with a new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball, and this means a steep learning curve for players young and old.
Even experienced veterans can struggle picking up a new system, and for young players who are still establishing themselves, having to forget the few things they’ve already learned and pick up new techniques can be a difficult process indeed.
Take Xavier Rhodes for example. We know Xavier has had his struggles in camp and preseason as he has worked to unlearn the Leslie Frazier/Alan Williams way and pick up the Mike Zimmer/George Edwards/Jerry Gray way. Jerry Gray spoke about Xavier’s issues with Paul Allen (via Vikings.com), saying that for Xavier, it’s really like going back to square one:
It’s almost like he’s a rookie [Gray said]. Kind of going back through the learning phases of what we want. We want you to go back and play man-to-man. We want you to do things that you were drafted to do. That’s the scheme that Zimmer is running and George Edwards is running. So it gives us a chance to teach him what he’s good at.
But he’s taking baby steps because it’s new to him. A lot of times when guys come out of college they’re generally in their system for three or four years and they get it down pat so they can move on. Well he was in one system and now he’s in another so it’s really like a rookie [season] to him.
As Rhodes has struggled to pick up the new system, so have Mike Zimmer and his staff struggled to pick up the right way of dealing with Rhodes. Early on Zimmer tried the yelling-and-screaming approach but quickly learned this would not work, and had to adjust to the kid gloves approach.
Zimmer surely knows how to teach his system and his techniques, but it may take some time for Rhodes to get his footing in the new scheme. He looked lost at times in last weekend’s game against Arizona and if he doesn’t do better in the final games and practices leading up to the opener, the Vikings might have to look at beginning the season with a veteran like Derek Cox or Shaun Prater in the starting lineup instead of Rhodes.
The talent is certainly there for Rhodes, but as much as he’s scuffled since camp began, there are valid reasons to be concerned about his future. It could be that he is ultimately not a good fit in Zimmer’s scheme, and then the Vikings will be left looking for other options.