Each week, NFL.com analyst Ike Taylor unveils his ranking of the league's best cornerbacks.
The former Steelers cornerback showed some love to the Vikings this week as a pair of Vikings cracked the top 10.
Veteran Trae Waynes landed at No. 8 on Taylor's list while fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes came in at No. 10.
Taylor said Newman, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, is playing at a high level for a stout Minnesota defense.
*In his 14th NFL season, this veteran cornerback is having one of his best performances yet with a Vikings defense that ranks fourth against the pass. The 38-year-old Newman is put in good situations under Head Coach Mike Zimmer — the two have been together during eight seasons with three different teams (Dallas, Cincinnati and Minnesota). *
Newman is savvy and understands offenses very well. The rangy corner's playing style is similar to Kansas City sophomore Marcus Peters. Though they are on opposite ends of the spectrum in age, they both like to play off the line of scrimmage, see the entire field and react off their instincts.
Through Week 7, Newman has allowed just 15 receptions on 38 targets (39.5 percent) for 130 yards (8.7 yards per catch). He has five passes defensed and one interception — off the 2015 league MVP Cam Newton in Week 3 — while not giving up a touchdown in six games. Opposing quarterbacks have a 38.3 passer rating when targeting Newman this season.
Rhodes was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Rhodes has a pair of interceptions this season, picking off passes against the Giants and Eagles.
Taylor said Rhodes has excelled all season against top competition and is up for another challenge Monday night against Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Y'all have been asking about this guy for weeks, and after evaluating all of these corners, he's finally cracked the top 10. Since he's been healthy, Rhodes has been the first-round draft pick the Vikings have been looking for at the position, and I think a lot of that has to do with what he's learned from Newman. He's big (6-foot-1, 218) and physical, which makes a good matchup against big receivers, and specializes in bump-and-run coverage. He's coming off a huge Week 7 performance that saw him make an impressive diving interception and force a fumble. When covering top receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham, Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins in his first three games this season, Rhodes gave up one TD to Hopkins.
I can't wait to watch Rhodes cover Alshon Jeffrey in this week's Monday night game, especially with Jay Cutler back on the field. These two are not even in their primes yet but are capable of being in the upper echelon at their positions. The winner of this matchup will be the player who brings down the jump ball.
Newman and Rhodes have helped the Vikings defense climb to a tie for first in the NFL in points allowed per game (14.0) and lead the league in total yards allowed per game (279.5).
Pressuring Cutler in comeback
With Bears quarterback Jay Cutler potentially returning to the field for Monday Night Football, the Vikings defense will see a familiar foe on the other side of the ball.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com* *took a look at Cutler's performance against Minnesota last season to get a gauge of how Monday night might go.
The Vikings sacked Cutler six times in two games as Minnesota swept both games against the Bears. Coller noted the Vikings generated strong pressure with just a rush of four linemen.
Cutler might need the benefit of a running game if he is going to gain any traction against the Vikings, who rank seventh in the league in yards per carry allowed. But Chicago running back Jordan Howard averages 4.8 yards per carry, making him dangerous.
Even the best run game, however, probably isn't going to be enough to carry Chicago's already-struggling offense.