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Vikings’ corner Xavier Rhodes noticed Jameis Winston’s competitiveness early on at Florida State

Xavier Rhodes won’t get too many breaks this year.

The Minnesota Vikings’ shutdown corner opened up by facing Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, then locked onto Antonio Brown in Week 2 and now he will take on one of the league’s most dangerous receivers against Tampa Bay – whether that’s Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson.

Rhodes has some familiarity with the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who was a redshirt freshman when the Vikings’ franchise corner was finishing up his time as a Seminole.

“I knew he was competitive,” Rhodes said. “At Florida State, he would always want to race. He thought he was the fastest person on the team knowing  he was the slowest.”

It stuck with Rhodes that Winston had a high level of self belief, which has been praised during his short time as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

“He would compete at anything, he thought he had the best hands, thought he could cover anyone at DB and I was like, ‘Bro, you’re just an all-around athlete running a 4.8 [40-yard dash] huh,” Rhodes joked. “He always had confidence, always believed in himself and it shows in the NFL.”

The Bucs run a unique offense – a throwback in a way – which asks Winston to work the ball downfield, causing corners like Rhodes to stay on top-notch receivers on deep-developing routes. Rhodes said Winston’s IQ and fearlessness in throwing the ball downfield make him a difficult matchup.

“He’s accurate, he’s smart in deciding who to throw it to against certain coverages, he reads coverage really well,” Rhodes said. “Jameis is Jameis, he’s confident, he believes in his receivers, he’s going to throw it where they need to be and trust that they’re going to get there.”

If Rhodes is going to shadow a receiver this week, it’s more likely to be Evans, since he was a go-to for Winston, catching 96 passes for 1,321 yards last season.

“He’s big and strong,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “When Jameis gets in trouble he’ll throw it up to him and it gets to be a jump ball. He’s a physical receiver. He presents a challenge.”

  • Gordon Guffey

    While Winston hasn’t thrown any INT’s this year he threw 33 in his first two seasons ~ Hopefully Zimmer can come up with a game plan to help him get those INT’s to return in bunches this week ~ Here is to hoping ~

    I do expect the defense to play well this week ~

    • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Here’s some QBs that threw more INTs than Winston in their first 32 games…

      Favre, Montana, Marino, Manning…

      Here’s some QBs that threw less INTs in their first 32 games…

      Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco…

      Anywho it won’t matter if Evans is covered by Rhodes or not Winston is throwing him the ball – Evans just goes up and gets it again and again. Look at Richard Sherman last year getting schooled by Evans, even in by far Winston’s worst game against Patrick Peterson he had one picked off on a jump ball, but came back to it later and Evans got a TD on Peterson.

      Should be an interesting game – as a Bucs fan I think this is the type of team that will give Winston problems – but with D Jackson and OJ Howard and Brate they have a lot of places to throw the ball if Winston has any time. Oh and a little fun fact, according to ESPN stats (for what it’s worth, which might not be much) Winston was the best QB in football last year under pressure.

      • Gordon Guffey

        Agree it should be a good game ~ I read here on ESPN1500 ((( or maybe I thought I did LOL ))) that Bradford was the best last year under pressure ~ I know I read it somewhere ~ Do you have a link to that info so I no long make a fool out myself ~ LOL ~ He was also at or near the top ((( again info I got right here on ESPN1500 ))) on best % on deep ball ~ However we dont have a clue yet if he will play ~ Sometimes it take time for the ~ However if Case Keenum has to start he has a 24~21 TD to INT ratio along with 15 fumbles going into his 6th season ~ Not real good number when you look at the fact he has played in 27 games with 25 starts ~ Thanks for the info on the other QB’s ~ Things I did not know ~ If Keenum starts it going to be up to the OLRBDefense for the Vikings to win ~ I also agree Winston has a lot of talent at the skill positions ~ On a side note Keenum has never played behind a good OL so I guess I should say his play will depend on witch OL shows up ~ The one that played so well vs the Saints or the one that look like a unit that had 5 different starters at 5 different positions ~ The one that has only two starters from last season starting ~ But both where Center’s when they were starting and are now learning to play OG ~ This unit will be just as important as the defense playing well ~ Hopefully the Vikings will have a healthy Bradford ~ However I believe thats a long shot ~

        Good chatting with you ~ 🙂 It always nice to be able to talk football with fans of other teams without all the smack down ~

        • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          The ESPN stat I’m talking about is their own internal QBR stat, “Jameis Winston’s QBR under pressure this season (2016) is 87.1 – 21 points higher than anyone else and highest since data for QBR was first tracked”, Football Outsiders have a similar stat and they had Winston at 3rd last year, Bradford is 22nd in that one and Keenum is 30th – but Keenum is also 2-0 versus the Bucs in the last two years (combined 430 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INTs and Winston in those two games is 0-2 but threw for 770 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs). We shall see what happens but this game is no giveme even if Casey is the QB – the Vikings on the road seem like a team that will give Winston a very hard time.

          • Gordon Guffey

            Thanks for the reply and info Muhammad ~ Hopefully it will be a good game ~

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