Why a cornerback rotation is best for the Vikings' defense

Minnesota's pass defense is giving up 236 yards per game.
Author:
Publish date:
Mike Hughes

With three games remaining for the Vikings, the biggest question isn't on offense, it's surprisingly the team's pass defense.

Through 14 weeks, Minnesota's pass defense ranks 16th (236 yards per game) in the NFL. It's not awful, but teams are picking on Minnesota's cornerbacks, especially Xavier Rhodes, who is statistically having his worst season as a pro.

In last week's win over the Lions, Rhodes was used sparingly and that was before he left the game with a leg injury. Rhodes only played 29 snaps – just 41% of defensive snaps. 

After starting the first series against Detroit, Zimmer elected to hold Rhodes on the sidelines for the second series, with second-year cornerback Mike Hughes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander helping force a three-and-out. 

In every other game this season, Rhodes had played in at least 70% of the team's snaps, including 90% of snaps in six games. Injuries aside, it seems the Vikings would be wise to start a rotation at cornerback because they can't afford to have Rhodes playing as much as he usually does. 

Opposing teams are feasting on Rhodes, with quarterbacks owning a passer rating of 130 against him. That's second worst in the entire NFL, according to Matthew Coller of SKOR North. Meanwhile, Hughes is surrendering a passer rating of 100.3.

If passer ratings allowed were body temperatures, Hughes would have a fever and Rhodes would dead. 

"I just think it’s important we mix some guys in there and let some guys adjust and see how the flow of the game is and keep going from there," head coach Mike Zimmer said after the Lions game. "I think in the past two weeks, the cornerbacks have been in better position in pass defense than we were the previous four or five weeks. So if that’s the case we’re going to continue to get better.”

Every other part of Minnesota's defense has been above average. 

Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have a combined 20 sacks to lead the defensive line, Eric Kendricks is playing at an elite level, earning a 90.6 grade from Pro Football Focus, and the safety tandem of Harrison Smith (83.3 grade) and Anthony Harris (81.7 grade) is arguably one of the best in the league. 

Basically, there's someone at every position on the Vikings defense playing at a Pro Bowl-level, except at cornerback. 

It's obvious entering Week 15 that Zimmer needs to continue rotating Rhodes out of the game with Hughes and even Holton Hill getting more reps to get the best possible results on defense.

Next Up

Ian Cole

Wild trade Greg Pateryn to Avalanche for Ian Cole

Cole won a pair of Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and is a former first-round pick.

1024px-Hudson,_Wisconsin_9

St. Croix County GOP chair resigns after incendiary post on official website

John Kraft sparked controversy with his 'Prepare for War' post on the party website earlier this month.

ann kim

Ann Kim's new restaurant, Sooki & Mimi, to open in February

The James Beard Award winner is the brains behind Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, and Hello Pizza.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 1.32.19 PM

Firefighters rescue worker after trench fall in Rochester

The construction worker fell about 15 feet.

gray wolf

Grand Marais mayor's dog survives attack by wolves

He heard his 65-pound dog "screaming bloody murder" and then saw the wolves chasing her.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 12.04.55 PM

Minnesota's COVID vaccine appointment site goes live

Huge demand was expected when the site went live at noon.

emily ford

Duluth woman is hiking 1,000-plus miles on the Ice Age Trail this winter

She could be the second person ever to finish a winter-thru hike of the Wisconsin trail.

coronavirus, covid-19, icu

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, January 19

Two days in a row with fewer than 1,000 new cases.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.52.12 AM

After fire destroyed their house, couple forced to euthanize beloved dog

The couple's daughter has launched a fundraiser for her parents.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.16.14 AM

Investigation after teacher accused of lewd act during distance learning

No charges have been filed yet and the staff member has not been identified.

Related

3 Vikings who need to step it up after the bye

Minnesota needs these players to be better down the stretch.

Adam Thielen

Predictions for the Vikings' Week 15 matchup with the Chargers

The Vikings kick off at 3:05 against the Chargers.

Xavier Rhodes

Offseason preview: What changes will Vikes make at cornerback?

A staple of the Vikings' defense may see major changes this spring.

Dalvin Cook

Handing out midseason awards for the 2019 Vikings

There are plenty of candidates for offensive MVP.

Dalvin Cook

Vikings' playoff chances are good, but all signs point to Wild Card

Minnesota is already in prime position to be in the playoffs.

Xavier Rhodes

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.