During Jets training camp last summer there was a fierce battle for the starting strong safety spot. While Oliver Celestin started all the preseason games, Rashad Washington and rookie Kerry Rhodes all got plenty of playing time. Late in training camp, FS Erik Coleman moved to the second team while Rhodes and Celestin practiced with the first team so the young players could get adjusted and make sure they knew how to get guys lined up and check the coverages.
Shortly before the season began, Rhodes was named the starter at strong safety. “He’s a very, very instinctive guy,” former Jets head coach Herman Edwards said of Rhodes at the time. “He has the ability to make plays on the football. He’s got a large body. He can cover a lot of ground with his range. We’ll see what happens on opening day.”
Rhodes had an impressive opening day making 11 tackles. It was one of five double digit tackle performances by Rhodes on the season as he finished third on the team with 105 tackles. Rhodes had his lone interception of the season against Jacksonville in week three.
There was a lot of pressure on Rhodes and the Jets defense with the offense’s struggles this year. The Jets defense did not allow any 300-yard passers and just one 100-yard receiver (TE Antonio Gates of San Diego).
Rhodes was selected by the Jets in the fourth round (123rd overall) out of Louisville. Rhodes had a successful college career as he played in 44 games, making 19 starts and finishing his career with 218 tackles, one sack, 11 interceptions, 19 pass defenses, one fumble recovery and three forced fumbles. Rhodes is not the only athetic one in his family as his cousin is Theo Ratliff of the Portland Trailblazers.
Before the season Rhodes said his goal was to come in and play and be competitive. Rhodes certainly did that this past season and with a year of NFL experience under his belt should be more confident next season.
Jets Insider.com’s Justin Paley recently spoke with Rhodes.
JI: How would you assess your 2005 season and what role do you see yourself in this upcoming year?
RHODES: “2005 was up and down. I made some plays but I also made some rookie mistakes. Overall though I think it was been successful. I went through the fryer. Next season I think I’ll be a lot more confident on the field. I’ll also have a lot more knowledge. I’ll be able to make more plays because I’ll be more confident. I play an integral part because of my playmaking abilities. I’ll be better next year.”
JI: What was it like to experience such a disappointing year last season?
RHODES: “It was first losing season ever. It was kind of rough since I’m used to winning. I came into last season looking forward to it. I kept my spirit and performed on a pro level. I’m ok though and learned to deal with it. Nobody likes to lose.”
JI: Is there anything you feel you need to work on in the off-season and who on the team has helped you development?
RHODES: “I’m trying to work on getting better at the big things and getting better with my eyes. I want to be able to see things and make the adjustments. I’m working on my backpedal to get out of breaks quicker. Those are the biggest things in the big scheme of things on defense. All the coaches last season from Corwin (Brown) to Donnie (Henderson) to Herm (Edwards) even to Markus (Paul), the strength and conditioning coach. helped me last season. I’ve gotten a lot of insight from a lot of different people. They are very knowledgeable of the game.”
JI: Have any teammates helped you?
RHODES: “Erik (Coleman) and me go through a lot together. He’s been an integral part of my success. We go through making all the checks and calls in the backfield.”
JI: What do you think needs to be done to get this team back to a winner?
RHODES: “Everybody needs to get healthy. The mindset is everyone comes out and be confident and can perform on a high level.”
JI: What is your off-season plans?
RHODES: “I took a couple of weeks off and enjoyed some free time. Spent some time with family. After that, it’s back to some light workouts and the off-season program..”
JI: Tell the Fans what Kerry Rhodes likes to do when he’s not playing football.
RHODES: “I’m a big movie buff. I like all of them-comedies, dramas, horror, anything. My favorite one right now is Paid In Full. I also like the Wizard of Oz and the 40 Year Old Virgin. I also enjoy music, pretty much anything.”