The Buccaneers couldn’t stop Falcons receiver Julio Jones on Sunday. In four days, the Vikings hope to.
Toward that end, the Vikings have something the Bucs don’t: cornerback Xavier Rhodes. During two prior meetings, Rhodes had done a nice job keeping Jones from taking over the game.
“It’s the same regimen, same thing,” Rhodes said earlier this week, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Go into the game, don’t believe in the hype, don’t be afraid of the name, just believe in the game. I know he’s one of the best receivers in the league, and I’ve just got to go out and play with the mindset of having confidence going against him.”
Via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rhodes held Jones to two catches for 27 yards while covering him only part of the time during a 2014 game. In 2015, Jones had another two catches for 18 yards when covered by Rhodes, again only part of the time.
This time around, Rhodes could be seeing Jones most of the time. And Rhodes knows it won’t be easy.
“[He’s] big, fast, physical,” Rhodes said of Jones. “I don’t believe he has any weakness at all. He’s focused. Doesn’t talk much on the field. So it’s hard to get in his head. Yeah, he’s just Julio.”
Julio being Julio was just enough to give Jones the third 250-yard performance of his career against the Buccaneers, who according to their head coach tried 14 different coverages to stop Jones.
“We had everything from the cornerback falling down, to a linebacker running out of [his] zone, to not getting pressure on the quarterback, to double moves, to them high-lowing us in a two-deep coverage and throwing over the corner’s head,” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said. “Every way you can beat those different coverages, they all happened. Nothing worked, and it was frustrating for everybody.’’
Rhodes will now try to frustrate Jones by keeping him under 100 yards. Or maybe under 150. Or maybe 200.