Going into his fourth NFL season, a lot of fans of the Minnesota Vikings are expecting big things from cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He got off to a slow start in 2015, but by the end of the year was playing at a level the Vikings expected from him when they took him with the 25th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
If, for whatever reason, Rhodes doesn't take the next step forward this year, it won't be because he didn't bust his hump in the offseason trying to get better.
Dane Mizutani of 1500 ESPN has a story up about how Rhodes spent his offseason in his home town of Miami, and he spent at least some of it working out with some guys that you've probably heard of.
Those guys are Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
"Some of us grew up together," Rhodes said, "And we're down there and one person knows another and we came together."
. . .
"You're going against the best," Rhodes said. "Those guys are labeled as some of the best in the league. So going against those guys, getting that work off the field, there's no choice other than to get better."
Has it paid off? Well, one pretty important person seems to think so.
"Sometimes with Xavier in the past, like when we'd come in for the offseason, it would be starting over again," (head coach Mike) Zimmer said. "This year it's not like that. We didn't have to go back and redo everything. Some of the more intricate things he was able to continue to do while he's been here."
This is setting up to be a pretty big year for Rhodes. The team has picked up his fifth-year option for the 2017 season, but if he continues his ascent on the list of the NFL's best cornerbacks, he could be setting himself up to get the sort of contract that would keep him in Minnesota for a long time to come. Hopefully, if he doesn't have to spend a few weeks getting up to speed, he can come out and be a dominant force from Week 1.