OTA Observations: Xavier Rhodes nabs a pick as quarterbacks struggle
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Xavier Rhodes jumped a short route and grabbed an interception off Matt Cassel during the Minnesota Vikings' OTA practice on Wednesday.
Rhodes, who turns 24 next week, has begun learning his second NFL defense in as many seasons after setting the Vikings' rookie record for pass deflections last season.
"I've been impressed with him...he wants to be very good," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's got great acceleration, learning the techniques and staying on point much better."
After starting last season behind Chris Cook and Josh Robinson, Rhodes finds himself as one of the team's top corners entering Zimmer's first season. Though Rhodes made the adjustments to fit into former coach Leslie Frazier's Tampa-2 style defense, he says he's more comfortable in Zimmer's press-man coverage schemes.
Rhodes finished with 23 pass deflections in 13 games last season, toppling the old Vikings' rookie record of 19.
"Zimmer is more vocal, he'll get on you more than Leslie - but I like both, I can respond to both of them" Rhodes said. "Of course the defense is different. This is more of a man, press style defense. That was my comfort zone coming into the league."
As the Vikings wrap up their third and final week of OTA practices, Rhodes has put the focus on his footwork - but Zimmer sees he's ready for the next step.
"We'll go in the meeting room here in a minute and talk about the next process of where he's going," Zimmer said. "But so far, I'm impressed."
• Vikings' fifth-round pick David Yankey returned to practice on Wednesday after wrapping up his degree at Stanford. Said Zimmer: "The thing I was impressed with, he finished up, took the red eye and got out here today. We want guys like that."
First-round pick Anthony Barr and third-round pick Scott Crichton are still finishing up their degrees at PAC-12 schools.
• Though positions are still very fluid, cornerback Marcus Sherels saw some reps with the first-team secondary as the third cornerback in nickel packages alongside Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn, who is the team's primary nickel back. Kendall James and Shaun Prater also saw reps in the nickel roles behind Munnerlyn.
• Wednesday was a tough day for quarterbacks, compared to the other two open practices in OTAs. Cassel threw a pick to Rhodes, threw another ball into the dirt near Greg Jennings and first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater had a series of overthrows. Linebacker Dom DeCicco also picked off Bridgewater, while cornerback Derek Cox had a pass deflection on the rookie. Defensive end Everson Griffen also batted down a Cassel pass.
• Christian Ponder, who didn't throw as much as Bridgewater or Cassel, finished his two-minute drill with a touchdown to Kain Colter. Colter made the leaping grab over rookie Jabari Price and outran defenders down the sideline.
• Kevin Murphy filled in for Matt Kalil (knee) in team drills while Joe Berger took first-team snaps in place of John Sullivan, who was absent. Fred Evans continued to fill in for Linval Joseph, who has sat out team drills in all three OTA practices open to the media.
• Former Vikings center Matt Birk was at practice.