With the start of the 2017 regular season comes another year of Ike Taylor's **weekly cornerback rankings**.
To kick things off, the former defensive back and current NFL.com analyst tabbed Xavier Rhodes at No. 8 in the league. He added a disclaimer that penalties accrued in 2016 dropped Rhodes lower on the list than his performance would suggest. Taylor wrote:
Rhodes broke out in 2016 (five picks, a 39.2 passer rating against) and allowed the second-lowest completion percentage (48.8) of any defensive player with a minimum of 60 targets. I expect nothing less this year. Like [Arizona's] Patrick Peterson, Rhodes has a LeBron James-type build and uses his size, speed and what he's learned from veteran Terence Newman to dominate opponents. The one red flag I have on him is he cost the Vikings 113 yards from penalties last season. If he can keep the penalties in check, Rhodes could take over the league.
Taylor's full order, starting at No. 1, was Richard Sherman (Seahawks), Peterson (Cardinals), Chris Harris (Broncos), Marcus Peters (Chiefs), Janoris Jenkins (Giants), Josh Norman (Redskins), Aqib Talib (Broncos), Rhodes (Vikings), Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars) and A.J. Bouye (Jaguars).
Danielle Hunter focused on executing, not on 'starter' title, against Saints
When the Vikings drafted defensive end Danielle Hunter in 2015, he often was tagged with the descriptor "raw."
The LSU alum has taken big steps in each of his first two seasons, however, recording 6.0 sacks as a rookie and 12.5 in 2016. He now looks anything but raw as he prepares as one of Minnesota's starting defensive ends entering the 2017 season.
John Holler of Viking Update and other Twin Cities media members recently spoke to Hunter **his mindset in the new role**,especially leading into the Vikings season opener against the Saints. Holler wrote:
He will be in the starting lineup in Monday night's opener against the New Orleans Saints but isn't taking a different approach now that he is on every offensive coordinator's radar coming into the season.
"I'm still trying to do my job," Hunter said. "That's what we all do – just do our job and our assignment."
Holler said that Drew Brees will offer "a stiff challenge" due to his ability to move in the pocket and find open targets.
Hunter understands that he will be getting a little extra attention because of his pass-rush ability and his quickness off the snap, but he isn't going to let any potential extra attention from tight ends [or] running backs trying to chip him off his spot get the best of him. He expects to see added attention but plans to keep doing what he does best.
Sparano on moving Easton, Vikings starting o-line
The Vikings in 2017 will start an entirely different combination at offensive line than they did last season.
One starter, Joe Berger, is returning but will be play at guard rather than at center, where he started 11 games in 2016.
*Pioneer Press *writer Chris Tomasson spoke with Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano about shifting Nick Easton to guard and settling on rookie Pat Elflein at center. Tomasson wrote:
Easton played guard during training camp and in the preseason, including starting Aug. 18 at Seattle when [Alex] Boone was out with a knee injury. Offensive line coach Tony Sparano saw enough to believe he can do the job on a regular basis.
Sparano said he **feels comfortable with Easton at guard**.
"With Nick, mentally that isn't the issue, the thing has been fundamentally getting him used to playing that position," Sparano told Tomasson. "During the course of training camp, we moved both he and Pat in and out to make sure we were getting evaluations, quite honestly, against (nose tackle) Linval (Joseph). And the more you saw them together, the more you liked kind of what they were doing together.''