Zimmer on Rhodes: “We’re paying him a lot of money, he needs to play up to that contract”

Xavier Rhodes’ drop off in performance in 2018 did not go unnoticed by Mike Zimmer, and the Vikings coach told reporters on Tuesday that the cornerback will have a better season in 2019.

“(Rhodes) needs to play better,” Zimmer said, according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, at the NFL’s media breakfast in Phoenix that is part of the owners meetings. “I’m going to make sure that he plays better because those guys are important in our defense and what we do.”

The 28-year-old Rhodes, who will be entering his seventh season and missed two games last season because of injury, hasn’t lost speed or athletic ability, according to Zimmer. So what was the issue for a guy who had an outstanding 2017 season and is set to make a base salary of $10.4 million (counting $13.3 million against the salary cap) in 2019?

“He’s kind of gotten away from his technique a little bit and we’re going to get back to it,” Zimmer said. “I just don’t think he played as well as he can play and he needs to play up to his ability level and I need to make sure he does that. We’re paying him a lot of money, he needs to play up to that contract.”

Rhodes, the 25th overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Vikings, had been considered a shutdown corner entering last season and was signed to a five-year, $70.1 million contract extension in July 2017.

Rhodes had a career-high five interceptions and 11 passes broken up in 2016. Those numbers decreased to two and 10 in 2017 but Rhodes still had a strong year. Last season he had only one pick and seven passes broken up. Rhodes missed a late October loss to New Orleans because of an ankle injury and sat out the regular-season finale, a loss to Chicago that cost the Vikings a playoff berth, because of a groin injury.