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Bowen: Xavier Rhodes is NFL's Best Run Defender

ESPN's Matt Bowen took a look at defensive backs around the league and opined about the **top players in a number of specific categories**.

At "best run defender," Bowen pegged Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Bowen wrote:

When the Vikings drafted Rhodes in the 2013 first round, he projected as a zone corner in Leslie Frazier's Cover 2 scheme. He had the size and length to jam and reroute receivers off the line. But he has developed into an all-around cornerback in [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's defense in Minnesota, and that includes playing the run.

Rhodes is going to tackle. He's physical, and he's going to use that frame on the edge. Whether we are talking about replacing off a crack block, closing the door on the backside of the formation or defeating a wide receiver stalk block to make a tackle in space, Rhodes is a vital part of the Vikings' scheme.

Bowen awarded the honorable mention for best run defender to Redskins cornerback Josh Norman.

Rhodes was one of two NFC North players that made Bowen's list, the other being Detroit's Darius Slay, whom he labeled "best up-and-comer." Bowen said he believes Slay is flying under the radar.

*Slay has everything you look for in a high-flight cover-corner. He has length and ball skills, and he's silky smooth in his movements on the field. Slay isn't the type of DB who is going to set the edge all afternoon in the run front. That's not his game. But if we are talking about coverage ability, he needs to be mentioned with the big boys in the league. He's a No. 1 cornerback who can match up against the NFL's top receivers. *

Slay was sidelined during the Vikings first matchup with the Lions on Nov. 6. They will face the division rival again in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

Sam Bradford continues to be a bright spot for Vikings

The Vikings are looking to return to form after four consecutive losses.

John Holler of Viking Update said that one mainstay during the recent struggles has been quarterback Sam Bradford, who has recorded **career highs throughout the first half of the season**. Holler wrote:

Playing in the constraints of a run-first offense, Bradford has done in eight games what he hasn't done at any time in his career – have five individual games in which he had a passer rating of 100.0 or above.

Bradford posted four games in both St. Louis and Philadelphia with a passer rating of 100.0 or higher. Holler pointed out that Bradford has a passer rating of 99.9 in eight games started for the Vikings, and in only one game – at Philadelphia on Oct. 23 – had a passer rating below 88.6. In all but one game, Bradford has thrown for 224 yards or more.

Following Minnesota's loss to Washington on Sunday, Zimmer said Bradford "played outstanding" despite throwing one interception in the fourth quarter.

Through eight starts, Bradford has by far the best completion percentage of his career (69.6). Extrapolated out of 16 games, Bradford is on pace to throw for 4,044 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions – all of which would be career highs.

Holler said Bradford's success is even more impressive when you recognize the type of pressure he's received from opposing defenses.

With Peterson gone, injuries up front on the offensive line and no semblance of a running game, the onus to move the Vikings offense has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Bradford.

In the two games he has worked with Pat Shurmur's offense, his numbers have been strikingly similar –completing 31 of 40 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown against Detroit and completing 31 of 40 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against Washington.

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