In the 2013 Draft, Xavier Rhodes was selected by the Minnesota Vikings as the 25th overall pick, and since that time he slowly became one of the most elite cornerbacks in the NFL, earning the moniker “Rhodes Closed” for his level of play and earning a five-year, $70million contract seemingly cementing him as a top-level defensive playmaker after two consecutive Pro Bowls.
However, with the contract extension, Rhodes experienced a down year in 2018, recording one interception (down from two in 2017) and only seven defended passes (down from 10 in 2017) on the year alongside a dropped in tackles (down nine from 56 to 47) alongside missing two games due to injuries which were, based on statistics, his worst season since his Rookie Year.
In 2019, the expectation was that Rhodes would re-discover his 2017 form, as the 2018 season for the Vikings was considered a general failure in the 1st Year under Captain Kirk. However, ten games into the season the former All-Pro is showcasing further that he’s slumping, and given the size of his deal and his age (Rhodes is now 29), many fans are now left wanting to cash in on the CB and get whatever they can for the ageing player, which would be half his worth had the trade occurred two years prior. But should the eject button be pushed, or was the contract justified and hasn’t hurt the defensive production as much as first thought? To see this, we have to look at Rhodes’ 2018 season in comparison with players who stood out for the Vikings and see if this trend continues in 2019.
In 2018, the Vikings ranked 9th overall for points allowed (21.3), 4th for yards allowed (309.7), tied-3rd for sacks (50), 1st for 3rd-down defense (30.5% allowed) and allowed only 15 passing touchdowns in 2018 (a league-low), finishing 3rd for Red-Zone Defense (44.9% allowed) despite finishing 8-7-1 on the season and missing out on a playoff place. This production showcases what was still a high-performing defensive unit led by Free Safety Harrison Smith (Tied 1st for interceptions and forced fumbles and 2nd for tackles in 2018 for Vikings), Linebacker Eric Kendricks (2nd for INTs, tied 1st for FF, 1st for Tackles) and Defensive Back Anthony Harris (Tied 1st for interceptions) who all boasted superior numbers compared to Xavier Rhodes in their own rights, although Rhodes does beat out Harris for passes defended (7 compared to Harris’6) and tackles (47 to Harris’ 46) but even though Rhodes played one less game to Harris, Rhodes started all 14 games he played in 2018, whilst Harris only started 9 out of 15 he played. In fact, Rhodes had played eight more games than fellow 1st Round CB in Mike Hughes (who suffered an ACL tear six games into his rookie season) but only managed to record 25 more tackles in that time, and the same amount of interceptions (one) which Hughes converted into a TD, whilst Rhodes only got a three-yard gain, furthering on this Hughes had only defended5 less passes compared to Xavier Rhodes, which can only be considered a monumental failure for the veteran who got paid by his team to play at an elite level. It is clear to see, therefore, that in 2018 Rhodes was almost certainly Open, and unfortunately, that trend seems to have kept up in 2019.
In 2019, the Vikings currently rank 8th after 10 games for Overall Defense (8th for Points Allowed, 4th for Red-Zone Defense and 1st for Rushing Touchdowns Allowed) and have therefore currently under-performed as a unit (which ranked 5th for total Defense in2018) so not all this is simply down to one player, the entire unit is suffering from a downturn in performance, which is quite uncharacteristic for aMike Zimmer’s team. However, yet again Rhodes is not playing up to his contract, after starting 10 games he has recorded zero interceptions, only three passes defended and 42 tackles, in comparison Mike Hughes (coming off the ACL Injury) having only started two of the eight games he has played in, has defended double the passes Rhodes has created a Forced Fumble (unlike Rhodes) but has registered 20 fewer tackles than Rhodes currently on the season. Five defensive backs for the Vikings have recorded Interceptions (S Smith/Harris have One and three respectively, while CB’s Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander both have one), eight players have defended more passes than Rhodes (a stat led by LB Eric Kendricks) with two CBs providing Forced Fumbles for the team (Hughes and Waynes)and finally two DB’s registering more tackles than the 29 Year Old FormerAll-Pro CB (this is by Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris). All these points are the fact that Rhodes, as season seemingly go by, seems to be suffering further and further from dropping production levels, and this can no longer be justified really. If this team wants to challenge for the Super Bowl, then this can not be accepted.
In conclusion, Rhodes is a liability, and this may be showcased by Rhodes’ drop-in snaps played, seeing a career-low 69.8% against Washington Week 8, and even though this increased by 22% and 28% in recent weeks, this is more so due to injuries to defensive backs (which may be amended in the Week 12 Bye Week) so expect such production to see similar levels seen Week 6-8.
Featured Picture – Credit: Harry How/Getty Images