EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) — When the Minnesota Vikings resume practice at Winter Park on Wednesday, their high-profile defense will be digging in on trying to slow down a high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense.
The Falcons are led by arguably one of the top two receivers in the game in Julio Jones.
The Vikings have defined themselves with a team first mentality. That’s part of achieving success, not all of it.
In the midst of great football games are great football players and great football match-ups. This week will be no different. The focus is simple: Xavier Rhodes against Julio Jones.
Jones can catch virtually any pass, and he catches everyone’s attention.
“I don’t even know why you’re asking me that question. He’s a top receiver and he’s going to be a good match-up,” cornerback Trae Waynes said.
So you put your No. 1 guy on him, the man you paid the money to in the off season. And you let him do his thing.
“Don’t be afraid of the name, just believe it’s a game. I know he’s one of the best receivers in the league and I just have to go and play with the mindset and having confidence going against him,” Rhodes said.
In some respects, you simplify the game by telling someone to just shadow this guy every play.
“I think it helps because you know one person, you study one person and kind of feel out all their tendencies and mannerisms. He’s been excellent as far as lining up on a guy and pretty much shutting them down,” cornerback Terence Newman said.
Because these match-ups are defining, and you have to learn to relish them, not run from them.
“At first it was a challenge and I was nervous, jittery my first time doing it. Now it’s just kind of my job, I have to go out there and do it, help my team win,” Rhodes said.