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NOTEBOOK: Rhodes Has Different Approaches to Evans, Jackson

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Between the two of them Buccaneers wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson have eight combined 1,000-yard seasons and 74 total touchdown receptions.

The pair is one of the top receiver duos in the NFL, but each bring a different skill set to the field.

Evans is known as a physical, big-bodied player, and Jackson's speed has always caused nightmares for opposing defenses.

Xavier Rhodes said Wednesday that he's not sure which player he'll match up against Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings cornerback noted he'll have to take different approaches depending on which wide receiver is lined up across from him.

"They're great at their abilities, what they can do and bring to the table. You have to watch out for both, DeSean with the speed and Evans with his size and physicality," Rhodes said. "Those guys are both good at what they do, so we have to watch out for both of them.

"Whoever lines up against me, I'll have to be ready for," Rhodes later added. "If I'm on DeSean, I'll have to do a lot of hamstring workouts. If I'm on Mike Evans, I'll have to get in the weight room." 

Rhodes' answer drew laughs from the Twin Cities media, but that wasn't his only humorous moment of his media session.

Rhodes and Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston both played for Florida State.

Rhodes, who was a redshirt junior when Winston was a freshman on the scout team, said the two keep in contact throughout the offseason.

"We talk every time we see each other," Rhodes said. "We talk about Florida State. I tell him, 'You're doing great things in the league,' and he tells me the same, so we just chitchat, small-talk and do a little catching up."

But the cornerback pulled out another quip when asked if he saw Winston's potential back then with the Seminoles.

"I knew he was competitive. I definitely knew that," Rhodes said. "When he was at Florida State, he always wanted to race. He thought he was the fastest person on the team, knowing he was the slowest.

"He thought he had the best hands, thought he could cover any and every one at DB," Rhodes added. "I'm like, 'Bro, you're just an all-around athlete running a 4.8, huh?' So Jameis was pretty funny when he was at Florida State. He always had confidence, always believed in himself and his talent, and it shows in the NFL."

Sunday will be the first meeting between Rhodes and Winston in the NFL, aside from a quick meet-up in the 2015 preseason when Rhodes played just 16 snaps on defense and Winston was 9-for-19 passing for 131 yards in his first taste of NFL action.

Winston is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Rhodes had a team-high five interceptions and made his first Pro Bowl in 2016.

Griffen not worried about lack of defensive turnovers

The Vikings finished plus-11 on turnovers for the 2016 season, a stat in which Minnesota ranked tied for fourth in the NFL.

Minnesota is minus-1 in the department after losing a fumble Sunday in Pittsburgh. 

And although the Vikings defense hasn't forced a turnover yet, defensive end Everson Griffen said he isn't worried one bit.

It's two games … takeaways are going to come," Griffen said Wednesday. "First and foremost, if we eliminate the penalties, most likely it's a closer game.

"But takeaways are going to come when they come. I think [not having] penalties will help us win more games than takeaways," Griffen added. "If we play on a high level and take away the penalties, then we're going to be a better team. Takeaways, they're going to come eventually."

Griffen leads the Vikings with 3.0 sacks in two games and is tied for third in the NFL in the category.

The man with 51.0 career sacks and 50 career starts said Minnesota's defense will have another stern test Sunday in Winston.

Winston threw for 204 yards in Tampa Bay's win against Chicago, but the Buccaneers were balanced enough to run the ball 34 times against the Bears.

"He looked composed, he looked like he was making right decisions," Griffen said. "But like I said, they got the running game going. They were running the ball pretty well, and once you have both the running and the passing game going, it's easier for the quarterback to get the ball out.

"You have to make a team one-dimensional," Griffen said. "They played well, we just have to go out there and make them one-dimensional. Stop the run, be able to pin our ears back and rush the passer."

Rudolph: Vikings won't change offensive preparation

It remains to be seen whether or not Kyle Rudolph or Case Keenum starts at quarterback for the Vikings on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

But no matter who plays, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said the other 10 guys on the field will be ready to perform at the highest level.

"There's not really any challenges to prepare for," Rudolph said. "I think every guy on our offense will prepare the same way they have every week.

"You're going to get yourself ready to play on Sunday," Rudolph added. "We control all that we can control."

If Keenum starts for the second straight week, Rudolph said the entire team will have the belief that Keenum can get the job done.

"Case is a competitor," Rudolph said. "He competed all spring and all summer, and when you see him out in the game, he has that desire that burns deep down. He wants to go out there and make plays for us and win games."

Keenum threw for 167 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Steelers.

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