A number of Vikings players throughout the first two weeks of Organized Team Activity practices have spoken about personal goals and expectations during the 2017 season.
Mackensie Alexander is no exception as he looks ahead to his second season in the NFL.
Matt Vensel of the *Star Tribune *caught up with Alexander this week to talk about reflection on his rookie year and what he expects to be different moving forward. Vensel wrote:
When a pesky reporter picked [Alexander] off to inquire about his quiet rookie season, the young cornerback was courteous but not particularly colorful as he talked about being more comfortable in his second NFL season, how he has matured over the past year, how he is ready to do anything he can to help the Vikings win more games.
*Seconds before the voice recorder was about to be powered off, Alexander, the glare of the sun off his clear helmet visor obscuring his eyes, suddenly opened up. *
Alexander told Vensel: "Not playing as much as I wanted to, I did that to myself last year."
The cornerback went on to tell Vensel that he had been initially resistant to learning the nickelback position but experienced a change of heart late in the season. According to Vensel, "Alexander realized he needed to be a little less hardheaded and trust in the vision the Vikings scouting staff and coaches had for him."
"I mean, my gifts and my abilities are unquestionable. Everybody knows that by now. But in this league everybody has talent," Alexander said. "For me, it was tough last year. Of course. I'm a competitor. I want to win. I want to play. … So it was tough. But you live and learn, and this year is going to be a different outcome for me."
Diggs/Rhodes could become Vikings 'face of franchise'
ESPN 1500 writers Matthew Coller and Judd Zulgad recently posted individual articles in a good-natured debate over which current Vikings player will develop into the next face of the franchise.
Coller pegged wide receiver Stefon Diggs as the most likely, while Zulgad argued it will be a defensive player. He wrote:
So who would be the candidates to emerge as the face of the franchise on defense? Defensive ends Danielle Hunter ([12.5] sacks) and Everson Griffen (8 sacks) were both very good in 2016. Linebacker Anthony Barr took a significant step back last season but had appeared ready to emerge before that. Safety Harrison Smith is one of the best in the game at his position and has become a fan favorite.
But if this defense becomes Super Bowl worthy in 2017, the guy who could become the first name mentioned might be cornerback Xavier Rhodes. This is in part because of the position Rhodes plays and in part because of the top wide receivers (and thus quarterbacks) he will be counted on to shut down because of his ability.
Zulgad said that "shut-down guys" like Rhodes are hard to come by and can come to be known as a face of the franchise if they "consistently foil the passing game of foes in a league that does most everything it can to cater to the aerial attack."
In his four years with the Vikings and three consecutive as a starter, Rhodes has snagged seven interceptions – including five just last season – and in 2016 returned one of his picks 100 yards for a touchdown. Rhodes also received his first career Pro Bowl nod after his performance last season and made his first appearance in the NFL's Top 100, a ranking voted on by peers.