INDIANAPOLIS – His responsibility for his eyes and footwork are changing, and Xavier Rhodes thinks that will bring less of a burden to his game in 2020.
Will that lead to a resurgent season for the 30-year-old cornerback?
Without question, Rhodes falls pretty high on the list of ‘most important Colts’ in 2020, who also have a whole lot to prove.
Individually, Rhodes would also benefit quite a lot from getting back to playing like a capable starting cornerback in this league. He’s playing on a one-year deal, having to take quite the pay cut from what he was supposed to make with the Vikings before they released him back in March.
After playing for years in a defense built around man coverage, Rhodes now will have his keys focused elsewhere than just the wide receiver opposite him each down.
“This one is more zone, eyes to the quarterback on some plays. That’s going to be the main difference for me, being able to play looking at the quarterback rather than looking at the man,” Rhodes says.
“It’s so much easier, I’ll tell you that.”
Through the first couple of weeks practicing in full pads, it’s been difficult to walk away with clear evaluations on the cornerback play, particularly when it comes against the starting offense.
Rhodes hasn’t been tested much.
Of course, at the same time, we haven’t seen wideouts catching ball after ball in the direction of the field to where Rhodes is lining up.
That’s obviously a step up from the struggles the long, outside corner experienced last season.
Even with the admitted issues that Rhodes had with the Vikings in 2019, the Colts remain bullish that their on-staff familiarity with him, plus some extra motivation, will lead to great success.
“This guy has been a Pro Bowl corner in the league,” Ballard says. “He’s only 29 years old. He’s got some unique traits. And we think we can get him back to playing at that level.”