Rhodes adjusting to game plans on the fly

Xavier Rhodes is being asked to play a variety of styles and trying to adjust as a rookie.

Xavier Rhodes is an NFL rookie looking to find his place on the Vikings roster. As a first-round pick, high expectations came with him. At Florida State, Rhodes was a press cornerback asked to take another team's top receiver and go man up every play he came to his side of the field. He would get in his opponent's grill at the snap and chase him wherever he went.

At first blush, Rhodes looked to be a lock for a team like Green Bay or Seattle that put corners on an island and tell them to go mano a mano with an opposing receiver and let the best man win. In the Vikings' Tampa-2 system, Rhodes seemed like a round peg in a square hole – being asked to do things that don't come naturally from his skill set and experience.

Rhodes is making the adjustment to the system he's working under and said the Cover-2 defense the Vikings employ isn't hard-and-fast. It changes from play to play and team to team. Inexperienced in the system, Rhodes has endured a learning curve, but he's getting more comfortable with it all the time.

"I'm just doing whatever the coaches assign me and tell me to do," Rhodes said. "Whatever you want me to play – press or man-off, I'll do it. It varies at times, depending on what they want me do."

While he has endured his share of frustration as he experiences NFL growing pains, Rhodes has never had the type of sideline outburst that vaulted Dez Bryant into the national consciousness last weekend. Dust-ups happen and momentary frustrations manifest themselves, but they're usually not to the extent a national TV audience saw on the Dallas sidelines late in their game with Detroit.

"You don't see much of that on our sideline," Rhodes said of the Vikings defensive backs. "We understand what we need to do as a defense. We go over it in practice. When we go to the sideline, we sit there and let the coaches go over the mistakes we made. They bring it to us, we listen and we just go out on the field and play."

Will the Vikings break from structure and give Rhodes an apprenticeship by fire – locking him up with Bryant and getting back to his football roots? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on the game plan. Whether he agrees with it or not, Rhodes is ready for whatever the coaching staff has dialed up for him this week – and it changes from play to play and series to series.

"It varies, it changes every other week," Rhodes said. "It depends on the team we're playing against. I'm getting used to it. I'm getting better at all areas – playing off-man, zone. No matter what, I'm getting better in all areas. Whatever the game plan we get, I'm ready to play. We'll see Sunday."

THURSDAY NOTES

  • The Vikings can expect to get a steady dose of DeMarco Murray Sunday. After missing the last two games with a knee injury, Murray practiced in full Wednesday and is expected to make his return Sunday against the Vikings.

  • The decision by Leslie Frazier not to officially name a starting quarterback until Friday could be getting slowly undone by players. If you believe the comments made by players like Jerome Simpson and John Sullivan, the point has been made to the players – they plan on Ponder. The secrecy in this case makes little sense because the Cowboys won't game plan much different whether they think it's Ponder, Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel under center.

  • Chad Greenway will record the 1,000th tackle of his career when he gets his second takedown of the game Sunday. He will reach the 1,000 milestone in fewer games (103) than any player in Vikings history except for Vikings legend Scott Studwell.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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