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Vikings Roundup, 9/8: Rhodes Prepped for Road Test

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Xavier Rhodes on Tuesday offered a brief scouting report of 49ers receivers, saying, "They have fast guys, good guys, physical guys, guys that can get open."

"They know what they have and use what they have to their advantage," Rhodes said, particularly in reference to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.

Rhodes has spent the past six-plus weeks of an extended training camp and preseason working a considerable amount against Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson, who have helped Vikings defenders prepare for multiple challenges in 2015.

The first test will be Sept. 14 at San Francisco on Monday Night Football at 9:20 p.m. (CT), when he and defenders will try to prevent the last part of the scouting report from happening.

Boldin, the only player in NFL history with two games of 200 or more receiving yards during season-opening weekends, is generally considered more of a possession receiver. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder stacks damage against opponents, with 290 catches on 477 targets for 4,049 yards and 19 touchdowns in the past four seasons.

Smith, however, is more of a lightning bolt, ranking second in the NFL with a 16.9 yards-per-catch average since entering the NFL in 2011, and had 11 of his 30 TDs last season.

"You know he's going to blow the top off" the coverage, Rhodes said of the fifth-year pro, whose listed dimensions of 6 foot and 205 pounds mirror Wallace's metrics.

"He runs great routes, so you've just got to watch out," Rhodes said. "One of his main focuses is as a deep route runner because he uses his speed to an advantage."

How does Rhodes think Smith's speed will compare to Wallace's?

"They're both fast. Fast is fast, so once they get going, you've just got to stay on them," Rhodes said.

Not to be outdone, Wallace is one of three players in the NFL (Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson) with more than 5,000 receiving yards, 45 receiving touchdowns and a receiving average of more than 15 yards a catch since 2009.

The Vikings have learned what they have in the speedy offseason addition and Johnson, who had 31 catches for 475 yards (15.3 avg.) and two touchdowns in 2014, his first season in Minnesota.

Although Smith, a field stretcher, was added by San Francisco this offseason, he's worked in tandem with Boldin before as members of the Baltimore Ravens 2011-12. Together they combined for 221 catches, 3,504 yards (15.9 avg.) and 22 touchdowns in those two seasons and helped the Ravens beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Wallace has 48 career touchdowns (including one in Super Bowl XLV with the Steelers). A threat in the vertical offense in Pittsburgh initially, Wallace showed last season he can make teams pay when the greenery shrinks, catching nine of his 10 TDs in 2014 on plays inside the red zone.

Turner said Johnson runs well and is a bigger person than people realize (he's listed at 6-2 and 217 pounds).

"He's a long-armed guy, he's got great reach," Turner said. "I thought he played really well the second half of the season, I think he's improved a great deal over that, just being comfortable with what we're doing and he can run. All of the things you can say about guys, defensive backs feel speed and when a guy can run, he changes the way they defend him."

One favorite play?

Turner was asked if there's been one play that he's most liked what he saw from Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason and pointed to the last time Bridgewater took the field on Aug. 29 in Dallas.

"There's a lot of plays. It's hard," Turner said. "Probably the deep ball to Wallace in the Dallas game because we had a lot of things going on on that play and we were on the road and it was loud. He was changing plays at the line, and we ended up with a big play. Those are the things he has to be able to do."

Bridgewater spotted single coverage of Wallace by the Cowboys, changed the play at the line of scrimmage before the play clock expired and dropped in a beauty down the right sideline where only Wallace could catch it for a gain of 39.

No limitations

Veteran Joe Berger continued to fill in with the first-team offensive line at center. Turner said Berger's experience and versatility enables the Vikings to have "no limitations" on plays while John Sullivan is recovering from back spasms.

"Joe has had an outstanding camp. He's played guard, he's played center," Turner said. "He's kind of a leader of that group right now while we're getting Sully ready to go. He's a valuable guy to us, that's why we wanted to have him back. I think he will do well if he has to go."

Advice for a rookie from the rookie

Trae Waynes has consistently improved throughout the preseason. The rookie cornerback said he's learned a lot about techniques and has an improved understanding of plays and concepts but has "a long way to go."

Asked what the post-training camp version of Waynes would say to himself, Waynes said, "keep confident and don't get frustrated. You're going into a whole new system, so some things are going to be tougher to learn. Just keep your head down and keep working."

Number change

Terence Newman has switched from jersey No. 30 to 23, which is the one he wore the past three seasons with Cincinnati.

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