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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Xavier Rhodes practiced with some of NFL’s best in offseason: ‘No choice other than to get better’

By Dane Mizutani

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Xavier Rhodes has deep roots in Miami. So does Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown.

Both players grew up there and attended Miami Norland High School, which is a 20-minute drive straight north of downtown Miami. And while Brown and Rhodes left the school four years apart — Brown in 2005 before spending a year at a prep school in North Carolina and Rhodes in 2009 — naturally both return home in the offseason.

That makes it pretty easy to get together.

This offseason, in particular, Rhodes spent time covering Brown, along with New York Giants star Odell Beckam Jr. and Miami Dolphins up-and-comer Jarvis Landry, among others, at some star-studded workouts on a North Miami practice field. Landry told the Miami Herald the roster included about eight or nine current pros who would get together about twice a week.

“Some of us grew up together,” Rhodes said, “And we’re down there and one person knows another and we came together.”

Rhodes, 25, declined to elaborate further on the NFL all-star cast that also included Jets quarterback Geno Smith. Still, with guys like Brown, Beckham Jr., and Landry in the mix, Rhodes likely got everything he could handle — and then some.

“You’re going against the best,” Rhodes said. “Those guys are labeled as some of the best in the league. So going against those guys, getting that work off the field, there’s no choice other than to get better.”

The work against some of the NFL’s best pass catchers has to help keep him sharp. And after three weeks of Organized Team Activities and the first practice of a three-day mandatory minicamp this week, head coach Mike Zimmer noted Rhodes’ improvement entering his fourth season.

“Sometimes with Xavier in the past, like when we’d come in for the offseason, it would be starting over again,” Zimmer said. “This year it’s not like that. We didn’t have to go back and redo everything. Some of the more intricate things he was able to continue to do while he’s been here.”

Rhodes said that was a point of emphasis this offseason.

“Looked at the film of what I did wrong last year,” he said. “Stayed on that. Worked on that. Tried to get better in every way.”

Selected with the 25th-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Rhodes has become a mainstay in the Vikings secondary, starting every game in each of the last two seasons. In that stretch, the Vikings have asked him to shadow some of the league’s best, including Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery.

Rhodes (6-2, 210) has the ideal frame as far as what Zimmer is looking for out of his cornerbacks. He has proven effective as an outside corner in the Vikings system with 39 pass deflections and two interceptions in three years.

The interception numbers may increase with time as the system becomes second nature to him.

“It’s my third year in it,” Rhodes said. “You got no choice other than to know it.

“We got the wrinkles out. We communicate much better than we have each and every year. We know where we need to be, who’s going to be where, what routes we need to cover, we make the right calls in the middle of the plays. So yeah we’re getting comfortable with it.”

Rhodes could be playing for a new contract this season, should his negotiations follow that of teammate Harrison Smith, who just inked a five-year, $51.25 million deal prior to playing on the fifth year of his rookie deal. General manager Rick Spielman exercised the fifth-year option on Rhodes’ contract this spring, so he’s signed through 2017.

In the meantime, Rhodes will be looked upon to take another step forward and toward fulfilling the potential many see in him.

“I think he can be a really good cornerback,” Zimmer said. “He’s obviously got great length. He can run. He can turn his hips good. He’s physical. Sometimes Xavier’s his own worst enemy and he’ll get down on himself a little bit. I think he feels confident in what he’s done this spring. I think he’s improved a lot in his off coverage this spring. We will get back to working on bump-and-run when we get back.”

The post Xavier Rhodes practiced with some of NFL’s best in offseason: ‘No choice other than to get better’ appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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