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Could the Vikings' corners be the defense's weakest link?

Rhodes' and Waynes' performance in 2019 begs the question of whether a change should be made.
Xavier Rhodes

Last week, the focus pertaining to the Minnesota Vikings was on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Just as it has been since he signed his three-year, fully-guaranteed, $84 million contract, the 31-year old has been under plenty of scrutiny and as they entered a big matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker Zach Brown declared him the weakest link on the team.

That matchup has come and gone and after Cousins' performance of 322 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. Brown meanwhile is no longer a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

But despite Cousins banishing his former teammate from Washington to the unemployment line, the Vikings till have issues they need to work out.

One of those issues has been the play of starting cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. As one of the most tenured duos on the Vikings' defense, Rhodes and Waynes have built quite the resume under the tutelage of defensive backs guru Mike Zimmer.

However, their performance in 2019 begs the question of whether a change should be made.

The player that's under the biggest spotlight here is Rhodes. The 29-year old is just two seasons removed from an All-Pro campaign, but after a tough 2018 season, he just doesn't look like the same player.

Coming into Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Lions, Pro Football Focus charged Rhodes with 28 receptions, which is the fourth-most in the NFL. While that stat is a little concerning, it's more alarming considering his 33 targets are fewer than the three players ahead of him on that list. 

Even worse, opposing quarterbacks are posting a 110.4 QB rating when targeting Rhodes, which is a far cry from his 2017 campaign at 73.2.

Meanwhile, Waynes also ranks high on that list, allowing 27 receptions (sixth in the NFL) on 40 targets including two touchdowns. With an opposing QB rating of 102.0, it's fair to question just how effective Zimmer's corners have been and what could be the next move if there is one to be made.

While Mackensie Alexander has been great in the slot, allowing a 35.4 QB rating when targeted, it's probably not something the Vikings want to mess with. What they could opt to do, however, is turn loose their 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes.

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While Hughes has only played in three games after returning from a multi-ligament knee injury, the second-year corner has been impressive so far. Albeit a small sample size, teams are connecting just 50% (7-for-14) of their targets in Hughes' direction and the UCF product picked up a big deflection last week while covering Philadelphia's Alshon Jeffrey on a turnover on downs.

With the Vikings unlikely to remove Rhodes from the starting lineup, they could turn to Hughes to take some of Waynes' snaps, which could be a pivotal decision while trying to stop Detroit's receiver duo of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones this weekend.

The Vikings still may want to take things slow with Hughes, but with the Vikings needing a win to avoid falling 0-3 in the division, a move like this could be what keeps Minnesota afloat through Sunday and beyond.

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