2011 is a year I'm sure
He was traded by the Cardinals to the Eagles. That got him excited, but then came the news that the Eagles had signed
Rodgers-Cromartie made the Pro Bowl in 2009, but that pales in comparison to Asomugha and Asante Samuel. Those guys have combined for seven Pro Bowl selections. Asomugha had the reputation of being the best physical corner in the NFL. Samuel had the reputation of being the best playmaking corner in the NFL. Rodgers-Cromartie had to defer to them. He didn't have the track record to warrant a starting role.
With Samuel and Asomugha in place, Rodgers-Cromartie had to move to the slot in order to get on the field. I can't stress enough how awkward this was for him. This would be the equivalent of the guys from PE.com asking me to join them on Eagles Live, but instead of talking about the Eagles I would need to rap about the team. I know the information. I can talk. I can sing (in the most liberal definition of the word). I should be able to rap, right? Can you imagine the insanity that would come out of my mouth? It would not be good.
The move from outside corner to the slot was a similar type of challenge for Rodgers-Cromartie. He was still playing football. The playbook hadn't changed. All he had to do was line up closer to the middle of the field. A talented corner like him should be able to do that in theory.
Playing the slot requires specific skills. Attributes that help you outside can hurt you inside. The slot corner lines up over the slot receiver, generally a player who is smaller than outside receivers. The slot receiver tends to be a quick player with excellent body control and good elusiveness. You think of guys like Wes Welker, Davone Bess, Steve Smith (from his Giants days), Bobby Engram, Lance Moore, Harry Douglas and Danny Amendola.
Those small, quick receivers line up against a big corner like Rodgers-Cromartie and he's in for a rough day. They run good routes. They make sharp cuts and quick moves. The difference here and on the outside is that the slot receiver is running a short route. The ball will get to him quicker. That negates recovery speed, one of Rodgers-Cromartie's best weapons. As soon as the slot guy has some separation the ball is going to get to him quickly. The slot corner then has to chase the receiver down and tackle him. On the outside the corner has a chance to run while the ball is in the air and try to make a play.
The coaches knew all of this last year, but felt like the risk was worth it to try and get Rodgers-Cromartie on the field with the other corners. Some big guys are able to adjust to the inside and can play well in there. That didn't happen for the Eagles. Rodgers-Cromartie struggled. He then got hurt. That opened the door for
Rodgers-Cromartie did play on the outside late in the year. He looked better. He was more natural. Still, he didn't set the world on fire. More than a few fans have wondered what to make of him and his future with the Eagles. Is this a player you want to pay big money? Can he be counted on to be a good corner?
I understand that people have doubts. If you had paid little attention to Rodgers-Cromartie prior to 2011, you would think all the talk about his great talent was a load of hooey. This is where you need to have an understanding of the big picture.
Back in the summer of 2007, a friend on the Eagles Message Board named Sarasota Phil told me about a young man from that area who was expected to be a big-time draft prospect despite the fact he was playing up at Tennessee State. I had known Phil for a few years and he was someone to trust so I made sure to pay attention to TSU games that year. Rodgers-Cromartie was impressive, but awkward. You could see he was very talented, but he was a sloppy player because the competition wasn't on the same level as him. Rodgers-Cromartie got to the Senior Bowl and put on a show. He finally had guys of his caliber to go against and it brought out the best in him. He then had a great showing at the Combine.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com|
Rodgers-Cromartie played well as a rookie in 2008 and followed that up with a terrific season in 2009. Things changed in a big way in 2010. Kurt Warner retired. The offense went from prolific to pitiful. The team wasn't playing with a lead nearly as much. That put extra pressure on the defense. The sack total fell. Interceptions went down. Points and yards allowed totals both rose. Rodgers-Cromartie did not handle this well. This was his first real taste of NFL adversity and he became part of the problem rather than part of the solution. He was no less talented than the year before. He was healthy. The problem is that he lost his confidence and that greatly affected his play.
Cornerback is a funny position. Players must have a short memory. If you give up two touchdowns, so what? Let's talk about the next play. That's the attitude a good corner must have. They literally need to be a bit delusional. If a corner thinks about the plays where he was beat, self-doubt will start to creep in and the corner will become tentative. That leads to guys getting open and perpetuates the problem.
Anyone who watched Rodgers-Cromartie in the summer of 2011 saw a confident young man with great natural talent. He looked superb up at Lehigh. That went out the window once the season began. Here we are a year later and Rodgers-Cromartie is back to being a confident, aggressive player. He is in his natural spot on the outside. He knows he will start. Life is good and he's confident.
I fully expect to see him play good football in 2012. One of the questions people had about Rodgers-Cromartie was his tackling and even his effort on some plays last year. Put simply, he was lost. You watch those plays and can literally see the wheels in his head spinning as he's thinking about the play. As the year moved along his tackling got better. He got more comfortable and that made all the difference in the world. This isn't a lazy player. He chased plays down from behind a few times during the season. Once you get him on the run, he's a different guy. Put him in traffic in the middle of the field and have him starting and stopping and chasing a small receiver in tight quarters and Rodgers-Cromartie isn't himself. He needs room to run. That's what he does best, just flat out run.
How good can Rodgers-Cromartie be in 2012? That's a really interesting question. He showed Pro Bowl talent in 2009. He's just as talented now as then so he has that kind of potential. He averaged 4.3 interceptions per season in Arizona. If you watch his highlights, you'll see some amazing plays. Rodgers-Cromartie has yet to pick off a pass as an Eagle. I definitely think that will change.
The one concern I do have is the fact that he plays across from Asomugha. Quarterbacks don't throw much to Asomugha's side. That means passes will come Rodgers-Cromartie's way. He must handle this correctly and welcome the challenge. If he's able to do that, I think Rodgers-Cromartie could have a big year. He is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season. If the Eagles don't lock him up long term before the season begins, you can bet they'll do it quickly if he is playing at a high level. High-quality young corners are hard to find.