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Rookie Wall? Not For These Vikings

Posted Dec 5, 2013

This is the time of season when some rookies hit a wall. These first-year players are accustomed to 12-game regular seasons from their time playing college football when the schedule would conclude in early December. In the NFL, though, the season is 25% longer, and it’s difficult for many rookies to find that extra gear to keep going for the season’s final month.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case for several of the Vikings talented rookies. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, punter Jeff Locke, receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are all at the top of their game as the season moves into its final month.

Here’s a quick look at each of these rookies and how they are performing to date…

Vikings

Sharrif Floyd
All season, Floyd has flashed the talent and production that caused the Vikings to pounce on him after he fell unexpectedly to 23rd overall. In 12 games with one start, the athletic defensive tackle has registered 4.5 tackles for loss (TFL), three pass breakups (PBUs) and 2.5 sacks, including both a TFL and forced fumble last week against Chicago. His snap numbers have fluctuated from week-to-week based on injuries to other linemen and the weekly game plan, but there’s no question Floyd is a key cog in the defensive line rotation and there’s also no question Floyd will be a part of the Vikings defensive mix for many seasons to come.

Vikings

Jeff Locke
After hitting a home run in selecting a kicker in the draft last year, the Vikings tried their hand – or foot – at selecting a punter in this year’s draft. Looks like the Vikings have gone two for two. Locke has overcome some inconsistent play early in the season and has just put together consecutive outstanding performances. In his last two games, Locke has punted 12 times for a net average of 42.1. For context, the NFL leader in net average right now is St. Louis’ Johnny Hekker at 44.0 and a season net average of 42.1 would rank Locke fourth in the NFL. Also, of those 12 punts in the last two games, only five of them have been returned for a total of just 16 yards and another five have pinned the opposition inside the 20. Locke has zero touchbacks in those 12 punts and has also performed flawlessly as a holder on field goal and point after touchdown attempts.

Cordarrelle Patterson
Perhaps no Vikings draft choice has fulfilled his preseason expectations more precisely than Patterson, who was billed as an explosive, game-breaking returner who would methodically improve as a NFL receiver. That’s exactly what Patterson has done in 12 games with the Vikings, as he leads the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,088) average (34.0) and touchdowns (two) while his snaps on offense, targets and receptions have steadily risen. Patterson is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate and last week became the first Vikings rookie to score three separate ways in a season when he scored on a 33-yard run.

Vikings

Xavier Rhodes
As the season has progressed, so has the 25th overall pick in last April’s draft. Through 12 games, Rhodes leads the Vikings in PBUs with 16 and he’s fifth on team in tackles with 55. Rhodes’ best game to date may have been three weeks ago at Green Bay when he broke up four passes and had nine tackles, both season-highs for the rookie from Florida State. He was good last week, too, adding six more tackles, another TFL and a PBU to his credit.