NFL Nation: Xavier Rhodes

Plenty of ink has been spilled, and plenty of commentators' words have been offered, on the players the Minnesota Vikings don't have on the field: They're without Adrian Peterson. They lost their veteran quarterback. The two players they signed to contract extensions before this season have missed a combined 20 games. By the end of Sunday's 37-35 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Vikings were playing with a Labor Day waiver pickup at right tackle and a seventh-round pick at linebacker.

There's little doubt about the Vikings' resourcefulness, or that they've made progress in their first year under Mike Zimmer. But as he stepped to the postgame podium on Sunday, for a terse five-minute news conference that presumably was more family-friendly than the remarks he made to his team (Zimmer said his message to his players was "stronger"), it was clear how little that progress interested him at the moment.

"All the things I've been trying to preach for 11 months we didn't do today," he told reporters in Miami. "Critical errors in the field -- red zone, third downs. It just wasn't a good day."

The Vikings are absolutely closer to being a playoff team now than they were a year ago, and they deserve credit for having a shot at .500 until the final minute of a Week 16 game. But had they been able to turn a handful of close games in another direction, they'd be firmly in the NFC playoff picture, and their losses in close games stand as a reminder of what they still have to fix.

They lost in Week 7 at Buffalo when they couldn't get off the field on fourth-and-20. They blew leads of 10-0, 14-0 and 14-0 at Chicago, Detroit and Miami, dropping all of those games when -- in order -- a broken clock led Teddy Bridgewater to think he needed to try a desperation pass, a missed block from a backup lineman led to a blocked field goal and a poor snap triggered a blocked punt for a safety. The Vikings' last five losses have been by a combined 16 points; turn even three of those games into wins, and we're dissecting playoff scenarios right now.

Zimmer has a sign in the Vikings' meeting room that says, "Tough teams win in the fourth quarter," and he had talked to his players all week about the importance of finishing games. On Sunday, the Vikings allowed three fourth-quarter scores. The first one capped a drive on which Gerald Hodges was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The last came a play after Xavier Rhodes drew his second penalty of the day and seventh of the season -- this one a pass interference penalty on third-and-14 that put the Dolphins at the Vikings' 3.

"Defense has got to play way better. We've got to eliminate the penalties," said defensive end Everson Griffen, who jumped offsides twice. "Too many penalties: off sides, roughing the passers, holding. We got to eliminate the penalties. Penalties kill you. We probably had a hundred yards in penalties, so that's one touchdown."

It was 74 yards, actually, but Griffen's point is a good one. The Vikings are still inflicting enough wounds on themselves to lose close games in a league where the margin between victory and defeat is so razor-thin, they have valid reason to think they could have made the playoffs in spite of all the players they're missing. No doubt those players could have helped paper over some of the errors, and perhaps even turned a few of the close losses into wins.

But Zimmer has seemed almost as interested this season in the progress of his team as he has in the final results, and the way the Vikings lost on Sunday was again symptomatic of the things they need to fix.

"I think it was poor performance by us," Zimmer said. "We did things that I haven't seen in a long time.”
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings' 16-14 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Supporting Walsh: Place-kicker Blair Walsh was wide right on a 53-yard attempt, had a 26-yard attempt blocked and was short on a potential game-winning 68-yard attempt. Walsh, who before last week had never missed two field goals in one game, has now misfired on five of his past six attempts.

"I have not lost any confidence in him," coach Mike Zimmer said.

To be fair, three of the six attempts have come from beyond 50 yards. Entering Week 15, the NFL average from 50 yards and beyond was 65.4 percent. Walsh said he hit a field goal of about 68 yards during pregame warm-ups. He has hit 70-yard attempts in practice.

All positive: Zimmer made no effort to hide his displeasure last week at his team's performance in an overtime victory over the New York Jets. Sunday, Zimmer flipped the script and told the team -- and reporters -- that he couldn't have asked for much more.

"I'm not into moral victories," Zimmer said, "but these guys fought and played and scratched and clawed and gave it great effort today. I thought we did a lot of awful good things. …

"I said last week [that] I wasn't happy with our performance. This week we played well enough to win. We just didn't win on the scoreboard. Hopefully this will springboard us into the kind of football team I want to have. Without the loss, obviously."

Xavier vs. Megatron: For the most part, the Vikings matched up emerging cornerback Xavier Rhodes with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, a departure from what the Vikings have done under Zimmer this season. Zimmer said he informed Rhodes last Monday that he planned to match him up with Johnson for most of the game. The Vikings typically haven't matched up in Zimmer's first season, but he said: "It's good to be able to have a guy that feels comfortable. I called him on Monday and said, 'I need you to go with this guy this week.' He said, 'I'm ready.'"

Rhodes, who got some safety help, limited Johnson to one catch in the first half. Johnson finished with four receptions for 53 yards, with a long of 23 yards.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Continuing our Q&A with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (you can find Part 1 here):

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Scott BoehmVikings coach Mike Zimmer says his team has a lot of confidence in rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.
 You go into the season assuming Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback, and you'll have the chance to develop Teddy Bridgewater at his own speed. How much does that change expectations for your team when you have to make the switch to a rookie quarterback?

Mike Zimmer: I don't think it changed the expectations of the team. I think the team had a lot of confidence in Teddy. I think they had a lot of respect for Teddy in everything that we've done. I think it's always a little bit of a mindset change when your quarterback gets hurt, but I don't think it's changed any expectations. It hasn't changed mine, and hopefully it hasn't changed the defense's or the offense's either.

You talked about him becoming a leader of this team eventually. Have you seen his mindset change in the time that he's been the starter? Is he getting more comfortable with more people listening to him and looking to him for leadership?

Zimmer: He's still being pretty much Teddy. I don't think he's trying to be the leader of the team. I think he's just trying to do his job as good as he can. And I'm fine with that. As long as he continues to play good, I think that's what will make him a leader. I know at Louisville, he did lead, but it's more important for me and for him that he just continues to do what he's doing, studying and getting the respect of the other players.

When you had kidney stones crop up a couple weeks ago, how scary was that, or how much did you wonder if it was something more serious?

Zimmer: I had one in June, I believe, too. It happened fast. I mean, I was in a lot of pain. The procedure on [that] Tuesday was not fun, either. They're making me drink a lot of water -- lemon water, per the doctor. But no, it didn't change anything.

You've seen coaches like Gary Kubiak and John Fox go through health scares in the past couple years. How hard is it to keep some balance when you're in this job and keep yourself healthy?

Zimmer: It's hard during the season, at least for me. I'm kind of a Type A personality anyway. During the season, it's really hard. I just try to go as hard as I can until the season's over, and then take a breath and try to get back into normal life, I guess. I think as coaches, we all try to get on a routine and stick with the routine, whatever it is. I try to get out of this office and go home at a fairly early hour, because I'm in here pretty early, but I do go home and work when I go home.

As you get into the second half, and you've had a chance to set up what you want to see happen, what is the next step? Do you feel like players pretty much know what to expect from you, or is there still more of that work that needs to be done?

Zimmer: I think they have a pretty good idea of what to expect from me, and how I am, and how I go about things. A lot of times, I hear the players say, 'Don't listen to how he says it; listen to what he says.' Things like that. I think they get used to me, and in the same way, I understand a lot of the players better, too -- which ones to push a little harder, and which ones to back off. Like, with Xavier Rhodes, some of these younger players that I expect to be consistent all the time with what we're asking them to do, it takes time to do that. But when they have success, and they see themselves having success -- a guy like Sharrif Floyd, who's a young guy [who] a lot of people said things about -- when he starts having success, and he starts saying, 'Wow, this guy knows what he's talking about,' it just breeds more confidence. When they get out on the practice field, I don't know when it will all happen, but I'm hoping at some point that everything we do is natural for Xavier and Sharrif and Cordarrelle [Patterson] and all these guys, and it just clicks. That's when you become a really good football team -- when guys are thinking about playing and having fun and kind of free-flowing.

The Film Don't Lie: Vikings

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Minnesota Vikings must fix:

It wound up a moot point, considering what the Vikings' two first-round picks (Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr) did this past Sunday to turn a late-game collapse into a victory in Tampa Bay. But as the Vikings try to curtail one of the league's most proficient passing offenses in the Washington Redskins on Sunday, their young corners will have to be better about covering receivers without getting penalized.

Second-year man Xavier Rhodes and third-year cornerback Josh Robinson were flagged for a combined three penalties Sunday, including on back-to-back plays on Tampa Bay's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Rhodes put his hands on Mike Evans and carried him too far downfield, thereby earning a defensive holding penalty the Buccaneers declined after Evans caught a 23-yard pass. After Rhodes spent some time pleading his case to side judge Jeff Lamberth, Robinson was called for a 9-yard pass interference penalty when he got too physical with Evans and shoved him to the ground with his right hand while Evans tried to turn for a pass.

Rhodes' eight penalties tie him for third most in the league this season, and he in particular seems to be learning how to play the position without crossing a line. He'll face a group of Redskins receivers who average a league-leading 6.83 yards after the catch, according to ESPN Stats and Information, so it stands to reason Rhodes won't want to give them too many free releases Sunday. His penalties are products of aggressiveness, but he's still learning how to take away catches through his positioning -- and not completely through his physical handling of receivers.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As he stepped to the podium for his postgame news conference in Buffalo on Sunday, following a 17-16 last-minute loss in a game he coached while fighting off pain from kidney stones, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer looked as drained as he had all season. Zimmer talked about the progress he'd seen with the Vikings despite the loss, and it wasn't hard to sense he had realized turning the team around was going to be a longer project than just one season.

One of the enjoyable things about covering Zimmer is his Monday news conference, when he's taken some additional time to reflect on the game after watching film and generally has some insightful thoughts about the direction his team is going. On this particular Monday, Zimmer was keenly aware of the balance between coaching one of the league's youngest teams -- which has lost several veterans to injuries already this season -- and working in a business as fixated on current results as the NFL.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesMike Zimmer called the Vikings' coverage on one particular Sammy Watkins play, "poor technique."
"I don't want to ever give the indication that we're thinking about the future or anything like that," Zimmer said. "I understand that we're a young football team, I guess is what I'm saying. And that we're going to have some learning experiences with some of these situations. We've got a young quarterback, we've got some young guys in the back end. And these things are all learning experiences for them."

The Vikings' inexperience showed up in several situations at the end of the game on Sunday, particularly on a couple plays with cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson, who failed to reroute Sammy Watkins and gave up an 18-yard completion on a slant on third-and-12. "It was poor technique. Poor technique," Zimmer said. Two plays later, Rhodes got beat on a jump ball at the 2-yard line by Chris Hogan.

"It was a double move, and when Xavier made the first move, he transferred his eyes back to the quarterback and he kind of got out of position -- just a little bit, not bad," Zimmer said. "But he recovered, because he does have outstanding recovery speed, he recovered, had the guy on the sideline, had him on his back, and the guy went up and made the catch. Other than, when you get in that position, make the play -- that's the thing I talk to the players about. Part of my job is to get them in the right position to be able to make the play. When they get in position, their job is to make the play. He's been in those positions a lot, and made an awful lot of plays. I think receivers in the NFL, and the quarterbacks, they're going to make some plays, too."

Then, Rhodes played too far inside on Watkins' game-winning touchdown, giving up the sideline instead of forcing Watkins toward the Vikings' inside safety help. "It's getting to understand splits, getting to understand help, getting to understand formations and where you're supposed to be. I anticipate he will never make that mistake again."

Zimmer seems to genuinely enjoy the process of helping players develop, and he's been through enough projects with young defenses to know things won't get fixed overnight. That doesn't make the developmental stage any easier, particularly when wins and losses will dictate his fate in his current job more than any he's ever held. On Monday, though, Zimmer ultimately sounded hopeful.

"My expectations weren't going into the year, 'We're going to be this record or that record,"' he said. "It was about how we perform each and every ballgame and then kind of add them up at the end. I still feel that exact same way. I don't know that you can say after seven games, 'we are what we are,' only because of the fact that there's been so much change of what's going on. I think the quarterback will continue to get better, I think the young secondary will continue to get better, I think when guys realize -- I think that the emphasis that we've placed on certain things we've continued to get better. And I think if they'll realize the importance of all these little things we're talking about, we'll continue to get better. My expectations really have not changed whatsoever."
MINNEAPOLIS -- That the Minnesota Vikings were looking to trade Percy Harvin was an open secret in March 2013, when general manager Rick Spielman sent the talented, yet troublesome receiver to Seattle for three draft picks. It seemed like a situation where Spielman would struggle to create leverage, given how apparent a Vikings-Harvin split seemed, but the Seahawks were willing to unload a first-, a third- and a seventh-round pick for reasons that Harvin made obvious during his dynamic performance in Seattle's Super Bowl win in February.

Eight months later, with Harvin on the way to the New York Jets for the paltry sum of a mid-round draft pick, the reasons the Vikings wanted to part with him again seem as obvious as the reasons the Seahawks wanted him in the first place. Harvin leaves Seattle with a fresh set of reports swirling in his wake about how the receiver was a bad fit for Seattle's culture, to the point where the team's front office wanted him off the roster. Now, he goes to a 1-6 team that will owe him no guaranteed money after this season, and especially if the Jets have a new power structure in place next year, Harvin could again be looking for a team to gamble on his immense talent.

That Harvin seemingly couldn't function in the Seahawks' ecosystem -- seen as one of the most player-friendly in the league -- is as dumbfounding as the fact he clashed with a coach as genteel and likable as former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. It's not as though Harvin's recent stops have seen him matched with coaches regarded as difficult to work with, and even though he seemed thrilled to join the Seahawks when the Vikings dealt him 19 months ago, his durability and behavioral issues surfaced as quickly there as they did in Minnesota.

The Vikings used the picks they received for Harvin on cornerback Xavier Rhodes (who looks like a mainstay in Mike Zimmer's defense), offensive lineman Travis Bond (who was released last year) and running back Jerick McKinnon (who could develop into a solid weapon for offensive coordinator Norv Turner). That remains an impressive haul for a radioactive player like Harvin, and even if Rhodes and McKinnon fail to capitalize on their potential, Spielman appears vindicated by his decision not to consider giving Harvin a lucrative multi-year contract.

Harvin is someone else's problem now, a step further removed from the Vikings and a step closer to an uncertain future in the league. He will return to Minnesota with the Jets on Dec. 7, and even if he makes a few splash plays against his former team (as he did last November in Seattle), it's doubtful the Vikings will miss him much. His abrupt exit from a championship team suggest the Vikings were right to turn him loose, and shrewd to sell as high on him as they did.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In a week where we've spent plenty of time talking about an unexpected concern for the Minnesota Vikings -- their pass protection -- it only seems fair to take a look at a pleasant surprise: the performance of their young cornerbacks.

Secondary depth looked like an issue for the Vikings as recently as training camp, when Josh Robinson was dealing with a hamstring injury and struggling to prove he'd progressed from a disastrous second season. But Robinson has performed well as an outside cornerback in nickel situations -- albeit in fewer snaps than Xavier Rhodes or Captain Munnerlyn -- and Rhodes has been a solid cover corner in his second year, as well.

According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 53.3 when throwing at Robinson (the seventh lowest in the NFL), and a mark of 71.0 when targeting Rhodes (19th lowest among cornerbacks). Passers have had more success against Munnerlyn, completing 16 of 22 passes targeted at him for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

"They are getting better with their techniques," coach Mike Zimmer said of Rhodes and Robinson. "They’ve got a tough job when you’re out there one-one-one with good receivers all the time it’s not an easy job because those guys are terrific athletes and we ask them to do an awful lot. So far they’ve been good at what they’ve been doing."

The Vikings have five interceptions this season, which puts them 15th in the NFL (though Harrison Smith, who has three already this year, is on track to become the first player since Cedric Griffin in 2009 with more than three interceptions). Still, Zimmer said there's much more that matters to him at cornerback than just interceptions, and on that front, his two young corners are getting better.

"Everybody wants to get interceptions; I got that, but there’s something to be said about your guy not catching the ball and them having to go somewhere else," Zimmer said. "To me, that’s a big value if my guy isn’t catching the ball, because I can worry about other things. Maybe I’m the only one that thinks that way but I do."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer still sounded optimistic on Thursday he'd have Chad Greenway on the field this Sunday in New Orleans, despite Greenway's broken left hand. But the Vikings have injuries to several starters to track on the other side of the ball.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was added to Thursday's injury report after being limited in practice with a chest injury, and tight end Kyle Rudolph was again limited in practice with an abdominal injury. Right tackle Phil Loadholt was a limited participant with an ankle injury for the second straight day, though Zimmer thought Loadholt would be ready to go for Sunday's game.

"He'll be fine," Zimmer said. "He's tough."

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) returned to full participation on Thursday, while defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was a limited participant after missing Wednesday's practice. Linebacker Brandon Watts also worked in a limited capacity for the second consecutive day, after returning from a knee injury.

"He's got great speed," Zimmer said of Watts. "He's a young, developing player that I think has a great future in this league. He's got some coverage ability and it's hard to find linebackers with coverage ability nowadays, the way the league is."

Linebacker Michael Mauti was a full participant with a foot injury for the second straight day, and could be in line to make his regular-season debut on Sunday. If Greenway is unable to go, Mauti or Gerald Hodges might start in his place at weakside linebacker, but Zimmer said he thinks Greenway is improving.

"He feels a lot better today," Zimmer said. "He didn't practice, but he feels a lot better. He was running around pretty good, so we'll see how he does tomorrow."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings were without linebacker Chad Greenway -- because of a broken hand and a rib injury -- at practice on Wednesday, as well as right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder).

Tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes joined those three players on a list of Vikings starters who missed practice time on Wednesday. Rudolph was limited with an abdominal injury, which showed up on the Vikings' injury report for the first time, while Rhodes was limited because of the groin injury he played with last Sunday. Coach Mike Zimmer said Rhodes will be "fine" to play on Sunday, after he played last week's game against the New England Patriots.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed the Vikings' first two games with a knee injury, also practiced in a limited capacity for the first time this season. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) was limited, and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) was a full participant.

Zimmer: Chad Greenway has broken hand

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We'll attempt to squeeze in some football news on a day where most of the news surrounding the Minnesota Vikings is of a different nature. Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that linebacker Chad Greenway broke his hand Sunday against the New England Patriots, though Zimmer is hoping Greenway will be able to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Zimmer added that right tackle Phil Loadholt is not practicing Wednesday because of an ankle injury,

Zimmer said he thought Greenway broke his hand early in Sunday's game against the Patriots; Greenway received medical attention in the first quarter but finished the game. Zimmer wasn't sure to what extent the injury will affect Greenway's tackling, a year after the linebacker played much of the season with a broken wrist.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd should be ready to play after dealing with a shoulder injury last week, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- who was questionable last week with a groin injury -- will be fine for Sunday's game against the Saints as well.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Coach Mike Zimmer continued to sound optimistic on Friday that cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd -- who both did some work in practice on Friday -- would be able to play for the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Rhodes was officially listed as questionable with a groin injury, as Floyd was with a shoulder injury, but Zimmer said there is a "good chance" Rhodes will play, and added Floyd is feeling "much better" after getting hit in the shoulder late in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, is the only player whom the Vikings declared out for the game. Wide receiver Rodney Smith is questionable with a hamstring injury; he had been a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was limited on Friday.

Linebacker Michael Mauti is probable to play on Sunday after missing last week's game with a foot injury. Fullback Zach Line is also probable with an ankle injury after missing last week's game, as is guard Charlie Johnson, whom Zimmer said injured his ankle in practice on Wednesday. Tackle Mike Harris and cornerback Jabari Price are both probable with shoulder injuries.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The prospect of cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd playing in the Minnesota Vikings' home opener on Sunday appears to be improving.

Coach Mike Zimmer said on Thursday afternoon that there is a "good chance" that Rhodes (who is nursing a groin injury) and Floyd (who has a shoulder injury) could be ready for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Rhodes said on Thursday that he is feeling better than he did early in the week, and he was on the field with his helmet during the portion of Vikings practice open to reporters on Thursday.

"He was alright," Zimmer said. "We're just getting him in some (drills)."

Floyd did not practice on Thursday, but Zimmer said there was a possibility he would be able to do at least some work in the game on Sunday. If Floyd isn't available, Tom Johnson would likely start at tackle for the Vikings.

"We'll know more tomorrow and the next day," Zimmer said.

Also, Adrian Peterson did not participate in practice after going through warm-ups with the team during the open portion, but the Vikings say his absence was not injury-related.

Rapid Reaction: Minnesota Vikings

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 34-6 win over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Vikings, who didn't get a win on the road in 2013, started the Mike Zimmer era with a convincing -- although not altogether clean -- victory on the road. Their defense looked markedly improved from the porous unit that allowed more points than any team in the league last season, holding the Rams to just 318 yards -- many of which came after the game had been decided -- and intercepting two passes. The Vikings were penalized seven times for 60 yards on a day filled with flags from Ed Hochuli's crew, and only went 3-for-11 on third downs, but especially for the defense, it was an impressive start to the 2014 season.

Stock watch: Cornerback Josh Robinson's standing didn't seem like it could be much lower in the middle of the preseason, when Zimmer referred to the corner as "that other guy" while he was out nursing a hamstring injury. But the Vikings have praised Robinson's improvement in recent weeks, and Robinson's impressive sideline interception -- in which he undercut a Shaun Hill pass and tapped his toes just before heading out of bounds -- was perhaps the best play on a ball we've seen by a Vikings corner in several years. He also made a nice tackle on Brian Quick's third-down reception in the first quarter, keeping the Rams a yard short of a first down before Greg Zuerlein missed a 50-yard field goal. The Vikings lost Xavier Rhodes to a groin injury, and will have to monitor the second-year player's health, but they'll at least have reason to be encouraged about Robinson's development.

Vikings win sack battle: Heading into the game, there was plenty of concern about how the Vikings' offensive line would hold up against the Rams' front four, which had 53 sacks last season. The group put some pressure on Matt Cassel, especially with the help of a couple of well-timed blitzes, but it was the Vikings' pass pressure that caused the most trouble. Minnesota recorded five sacks on Rams quarterbacks, and a vicious hit from Anthony Barr caused Austin Davis to rush the throw that Harrison Smith intercepted and returned 81 yards for his third career touchdown.

Game ball: It has to go to Cordarrelle Patterson, who became the first Vikings wide receiver to rush for 100 yards, burning the Rams on a couple of jet sweeps in the first half and lining up in the backfield for a 67-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Patterson finished the day with 102 yards on three carries, outgaining Adrian Peterson by 27 yards on the ground.

What's next: The Vikings (1-0) will play host to the New England Patriots (0-1) in their home opener next Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Minnesota Vikings cut 14 players on Monday morning, trimming their roster to 76 players. They'll have one more cut to make before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, at which all teams must be down to 75 players.

Most significant move: The Vikings signed former San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox to help with their depth at that position, and Cox -- who'd excelled in systems where he'd been able to play press coverage -- seemed like a good fit for the Vikings' defense. Despite a couple interceptions in training camp, he never was able to elevate himself on the team's depth chart, and his release creates more room for young cornerbacks such as Jabari Price to make the team.

Clarity at cornerback: With Cox and Robert Steeples among the players the Vikings released, the team is down to eight cornerbacks on the roster, and it's conceivable as many as six of those players could make the final roster. Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn are safe, Marcus Sherels would seem almost assured of a roster spot, as well, and three of the remaining five players (Josh Robinson, Jabari Price and Kendall James) were Vikings draft picks. If one of those players gets bumped, it could be James, who hasn't shown much in camp and could get beat out by Shaun Prater, who had an interception in Saturday's game.

Vikings' cuts: The Vikings released 13 players -- S Brandan Bishop, T Pierce Burton, CB Cox, WRs Andy Cruse, Kamar Jorden and Erik Lora, T Kevin Murphy, DT Kheeston Randall, DEs Tyler Scott and Jake Snyder, TE Kory Sperry, CB Robert Steeples and WR Ty Walker -- and waived S Mistral Raymond with an injury designation.

W2W4: Minnesota Vikings

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
The Minnesota Vikings (2-0) and Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) meet for their third preseason game on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium:
  • Final auditions at QB: We think the signs are clear that Matt Cassel will be the Vikings' starting quarterback at the start of the regular season. Though the Vikings haven't made it official yet, they've been operating that way since the start of training camp. But if Teddy Bridgewater wants to make one more push for the starting job as a rookie, he'll get his shot Saturday night. Coach Mike Zimmer wouldn't divulge his plan for the quarterbacks this week, other than to say Bridgewater could get some time with the first team. Cassel, though, said he expects to play quite a bit on Saturday, which could mean Bridgewater takes over for him in the third quarter and gets a few series with the first team before finishing his night with the Vikings' backups. At the very least, the rookie will have a chance to build on his impressive game last Saturday against Arizona, and could see a step up in competition if he gets some time against the Chiefs' top defense.
  • Patterson returns on kickoffs: This being the de facto dress rehearsal for the regular season, we'll see the Vikings start to operate on Saturday night in a manner more consistent with what they'll do when things count. That means the team plans for Cordarrelle Patterson to return a kickoff or two this week. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he doesn't need to see anything in particular from the All-Pro return man, but wants to give Patterson a chance to get a couple returns before the start of the season. He said he hopes the Vikings won't have to back Patterson off at all from kick returns as he takes on a bigger role in the offense -- instead suggesting the Vikings treat the kickoff return as a first-down play and adjust Patterson's snaps from scrimmage accordingly, as they did with Percy Harvin -- and Saturday will allow the Vikings to test their plans to balance Patterson's workload, too.
  • Rebound for Rhodes: Last Saturday's game was a tough one for second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes, whose missed tackle turned a screen pass into a 51-yard gain for Jaron Brown and who mistimed his leap on a 35-yard pass to Brown in the second quarter. Rhodes is expected to be the Vikings' top cover corner this year, and Zimmer has been coaching him hard throughout camp, at one point realizing he needed to be a little softer, as he put it, on the second-year corner. But as much as the Vikings are putting on Rhodes this year, it would be good for him to rebound with a solid showing (albeit against a less prolific offense than Arizona's) on Saturday night.


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