The Vikings will host the New York Jets on Sunday, and when the two clubs take the field the Vikings will rely on one of their rising stars – CB Xavier Rhodes – to help defend one of their former stars – WR Percy Harvin –who lines up for the opponent. The Rhodes-Harvin element of Sunday's Vikings-Jets contest is the subject of this week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup.
Rhodes is indeed a rising star. After flashing as a rookie a season ago, Rhodes has begun to flourish in Mike Zimmer's defense this season and leads the Vikings in pass breakups with 14. His combination of athleticism and size, along with his development in the Vikings new defense, has allowed him to become a reliable, productive, all-around defender capable of staying on the field in any situation to help defend both the run and the pass.
Rhodes will be a big part of the game plan this week as the Vikings combating a Jets offense that includes plenty of explosive playmakers from RBs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson to WR Eric Decker.
Another explosive weapon now in the Jets offense is a familiar face to the Vikings – Harvin. The dynamic playmaker entered the NFL with the Vikings as a first-round pick in 2009 and made an immediate and profound impact. After playing for the Vikings from 2009-12, Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2013 season and then was dealt from Seattle to the Jets during this season.
Since debuting for the Jets in Week 8, Harvin has participated in 239 offensive snaps. In those snaps, he has carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards and he's also been targeted 35 times in the passing game, coming up with 19 receptions for 182 yards. Perhaps those numbers won't blow you away, but it's a solid start for a player who joined his team mid-season, particularly when that team has struggled to gain consistency on offense.
The production Harvin has been able to muster while with the Jets is largely a product of his biggest asset – his versatility.
View images from the Wednesday, December 3 practice at Winter Park.
"Well they do everything with him," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday. "They put him in the backfield as a back, they run reverses with him, they run screens with him, they run pretty much everything. He's definitely a focal point of what they're doing."
A ripple effect of having Harvin on the field is that other players in the offense may be in position to take advantage of favorable matchups. Defending Harvin requires the attention of the defense and often times the attention of the best defensive back, which can create opportunities for other playmakers. Zimmer addressed that concern on Wednesday, as well.
"The other guys…we'll know where he (Harvin) is," Zimmer explained, "it's the other guys making sure we get the right matchups and everything else when they've got – they might have three backs and two receivers in there and he might be lined up as the back. They might have three tight ends and two receivers and he's the back. He could line up anywhere."
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