JI had the pleasure to chat with Jets Safety Kerry Rhodes prior to practice on Wednesday and speak about his emergence as a dominant force in the NFL. The second year pro and former 4th round pick from Louisville has racked up Pro-Bowl type numbers in his first three games with 25 tackles, an INT and QB 3 sacks each causing a fumbles.
Rhodes for his great performance against Buffalo last week (10 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) was named today the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Despite his success Rhodes comes off as a very humble, focused young man.
JI: How does it feel being the AFC Defensive Player Of The Week?
Rhodes:: ďItís a good individual award but more importantly we are doing a lot of good things as a team and it compliments the fact that we are winning. It is though, nice to reap the rewards for playing well. My main focus is winning.
JI: What do you think has attributed to your game escalating to the level it is now? Is it Bob Suttonís new system or is it things you did in the off-season to improve yourself?
Rhodes: ďI think itís a testament of my hard work as I worked very hard this off-season but itís also the schemes that the Coach has put me in. Heís put me in position to make plays and Iíve been able to make them. Overall Iíd say itís a combination of both things.Ē
JI: Is there any player you emulated coming up in college and also to start your NFL career?
Rhodes: ďBelieve it or not, Steve Young. You know I played QB coming out of High School into college so at the time I was into offense. Jerry Rice and Steve Young were my guys. Recently, Iíve become friends With Donavan Darius down in Jacksonville and Rodney Harrison in New England. Those are two guys I can look at who have been in the league for a while making plays and are great players. It was good to talk to them this off-season and learned a lot.Ē
JI: You seemed to have perfected the safety blitz as of late. Can you tell me whatís going through your mind when you see that open lane and the QB is in your sights?
Rhodes: ďGoing after the ball. Iím not just trying to get the sack, Iím trying to make the biggest play I can and thatís getting the ball out. Thankfully Iíve been able to do that so far.Ē
JI: How did you develop your technique? Have you been watching some old tapes of L.T. when he was on the Giants? Safeties arenít supposed to know that kind of stuff.
Rhodes: ďMy defensive backs coach Corwin Brown. Every time we sack or tackle in practice, even if we are not going after the QB, we always tomahawk for the ball. Thankfully itís been working for me and the ball has been coming out, and Iíll keep doing itĒ
JI: Now that you are getting a reputation, you will obviously be schemed against. How will that change your strategy?
Rhodes: ďIt wonít change at all. Buffalo was calling me out when I came down in the box and I know they are aware of me. But thatís fine because it often opens up opportunities for other on the team to make a big play when they are focusing on me. Either way itís a good thing.Ē
JI: Is it going to be tough against Manning this week to not show your hand when you are coming? The way he audibles you may have to wait till the absolute last second to make your move.
Rhodes: ďYouíre right. We just have to do what we do and be patient against him because heís going to take his time up thereÖ. His moves and gyrations, thatís just his thing. We just have to be patient.Ē
JI: Do you look forward to playing against a guy like Manning, who many consider the best QB in the league?
Rhodes: ďMost definitely. If you want to be labeled as one of the better players you have to play well against the best. Iím looking forward to matching up with him to see where I stack up. Itís a good challenge for the entire team.Ē
JI: Is this game against the Colts a statement game for the team?
Rhodes: ďNah, itís not a statement game. If we can win it would be a big game for us, just to show how much weíve improved since last year and the beginning of this season.Ē
JI: Have you been dreaming about that safety blitz sack against Manning?
Rhodes:: [Laughs] ďHonestly, Iíd rather get a pick against Peyton but if I can sack him Iíd definitely take it with open arms. It should be fun.Ē