It’s a common practice for NFL players to rotate among positions, and Xavier Woods is no exception. As a rookie last year, Woods played both offensive line and defensive tackle. He started the season at right tackle, but was moved to left tackle after injuries to the team’s other starting tackles, Phil Loadholt and T.J. Clemmings. Woods earned a Pro Bowl berth at left tackle, and now he’s been switched back to right tackle.
The Minnesota Vikings are heading into the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their offense. Of the available free agents, they signed only one wide receiver in the offseason, which is probably why we’re discussing Vikings wide receiver Xavier Woods’ Pro Bowl credentials. The 6’2” Woods is a big target in the middle of the field with great hands. He caught 71 passes in 2018, good enough for ninth in the NFL. Woods also has a knack for coming up with big plays. In 2017, he had eight touchdowns and a combined 1,023 receiving and rushing yards.
Xavier Woods was named a Pro Bowl candidate by NFL.com
Mike Zimmer, coach of the Minnesota Vikings, is hoping for miracles in revamping the team, which was attacked by opposing quarterbacks last season.
The unit finished the 2023 season ranked 23rd according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), before undergoing an overhaul in the offseason with the hiring of free agent cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, McKenzie Alexander and Perry Nickerson, as well as defensive end Xavier Woods.
Woods, who spent the last four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, signed a one-year contract with Minnesota in March for a maximum of $2.25 million. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, who has been criticized for his lack of effort in a Cowboys defense that has struggled across the board in 2023, Woods might take the league by storm this season in his new hometown.
Don’t be surprised if Xavier Woods becomes a surprise Pro Bowl candidate, according to Rosenthal. Zimmer’s defense is a haven for smart safeties, and Woods is an underrated player.
Get the latest Vikings news delivered straight to your inbox! Sign up for the Heavy on Vikings newsletter here!
Heavy on the Vikings!
Wood, specialised study: I’ve never seen him not watch a movie
Woods, a sixth-round pick in 2017, became the Cowboys’ favorite after becoming a full-time starter in his second season. During his career in Dallas, he intercepted five passes and forced three fumbles.
But in 2023, Woods struggled against a lousy Cowboys defense, failing to grab even one rebound and scatter a pass. Woods has been criticized by Dallas fans after three consecutive defeats in which the Cowboys averaged 42 points per game.
The effort was questioned, and Woods’ honesty was not well received
The performance was good. In some games, some guys – I mean, me too – are at a disadvantage. But overall, the effort is there. This is the NFL. You can’t expect them to go all out for 70 matches, that’s impossible, Woods said. But we’ll do our best. I mean, we know. You don’t expect a cornerback on the back end to play on the other side all the time. It’s just not possible, honestly.
While Skip Bayless tried to bury Woods for the comment, an NFL producer thinks the comment was misinterpreted.
Jimmy Johnson has reportedly deleted Xavier Woods for what he said Sunday about the Cowboys’ commitment. Now on @undisputed
– Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 8, 2023
My opinion of Xavier Woods: I think he was talking about the hardening and fatigue that sometimes happens at work. I don’t think he was talking about how morale or attitude affects performance.
– Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) October 7, 2023
Woods responded to the comment with humility, equating watching the film with the ability to take that medicine, something he will no doubt have to take with him to the secondary led by a heartless coach like Zimmer.
Xavier Woods, asked if it was hard to watch the tape of a game like Sunday’s.
It’s not hard if you want to improve. Take this medicine like a man. Like a professional. We know we screwed up. But you come, you take this medicine, and you get better.
– David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 7, 2023
Former Cowboys middle linebacker Justin March expressed his appreciation for Woods’ work ethic and ability to learn upon signing, confirming Rosenthal’s prediction that a spirited defender like Woods could do well in Minnesota.
X in purple and gold is difficult. I’ve never seen him not watch a movie on his iPad. They have a great player and a true professional.
– Jay March (@Bubba_March) March 27, 2023
Big Vikings fan? Follow the Heavy on Vikings Facebook page for the latest news, rumors and content from Skol Nation!
Where Woods fits
Woods’ decline in 2023 is worrisome, but he was the leading defender for years after being optioned sixth in a struggling Dallas secondary. Woods, who has been the team’s leading defender for the past three seasons.
Pioneer Press reporter Chris Thomasson spoke with Dallas radio analyst and former NFL quarterback Babe Laufenberg to learn more about what Woods has to offer as a player entering his banner year after being moved to No. 45 in his position group in 2023.
I don’t think it’s bad, Laufenberg said of Woods’ slide. But the entire defense suffered last year. They weren’t very good. I can’t name anyone whose year exceeded expectations. Last year their defense was so bad. Woods might as well be a midfielder. Sure, sometimes a defender has to come forward and play the run game, but if your defender sits there and makes 10 tackles, you’ve been bad defensively, especially in the run game.
Woods was second on the team with 72 combined interceptions and didn’t have the defensive breathing room he once did. He threw no interceptions and defended just one pass after throwing four interceptions and defending 14 passes in 2018 and 2019.
But as a starting linebacker, Woods offers a lot of value as a versatile component when paired with Harrison Smith. Although Woods did not excel in coverage in 2023, he showed his skills as an instinctive pass breaker with an 83.8 PFF in 2023.
With two defenders who can cover and bring wood into the box, it will be easy for Zimmer to mask his defense in 2023.
I like (Woods), said Laufenberg, who has had a close relationship with Zimmer since his time as an assistant in Dallas from 1994-2005. Xavier is a great guy. The game is very important to him. I know he’s working hard. When I look at him, I see a really solid player. He’s learning. He wants to be good. He wants to be coached.