Second year man Xavier Rhodes is one of the more important players not just on the Vikings defense but the entire Vikings team. Minnesota was dismal in the secondary last year, and their efforts to get better in that area are going to largely hinge on Rhodes taking a marked developmental leap from year one to year two.
So how are things going thus far in Rhodes’ development under Mike Zimmer and his new staff? Too early to tell overall, but Zimmer does appear to have identified one area where Rhodes needs to get better. His mental focus.
Zimmer was asked about the coaches getting on Rhodes during OTAs and he said, “It’s really not just Xavier, it’s all of the defensive backs, stressing the fundamentals that we are trying to teach. Xavier has a lot of ability, I mean he’s a very, very talented guy and so I’m talking to him about being the same guy every single day and every play. Not one play is good and one play is not as good, to be more focused, I guess is really the thing. He has a lot of ability, I’m excited to work with him.”
Classic Zimmer right there. First, stresses that it’s all the DBs, reminding everyone that he’s coaching a whole team out there and it’s not about one guy. Second, gives you some specifics without being too specific (rather than just being generic like Leslie Frazier). Third, praises the player just enough to smooth over any suggestion that he might be unhappy.
The important take away is that Xavier Rhodes has been getting singled out for extra coaching attention in OTAs, enough for reporters to notice it and ask about it. Does this mean we should be worried about Rhodes? Not yet. Or at least, not any more than we already were, knowing how important he is to the team.
Xavier definitely showed flashes in 2013, enough to suggest that he can be a very good player, but it’s a new year and a new scheme, and the coaches are teaching new techniques. It’s too early to know if Rhodes can truly excel in Zimmer’s system. First thing, he has to stay healthy – we know that was a problem last year – and at least according to Mike Zimmer, he has to maintain consistency and focus better than he has so far.