So, the 49ers have this 2005 first round pick who is playing at the highest level of his career thus far after years of mediocrity. And just to clarify, I am talking about Carlos Rogers, not Alex Smith. The new addition to the 49ers has found his groove and might've finally broken through as an elite player at his position.
Having been a starter in the league since 2005, Rogers had never recorded more than 2 interceptions in a single season. On Sunday against the New York Giants, he picked off Eli Manning twice to bring his 2011 total to 5; more than doubling his two best years in Washington.
This year, we have seen that Rogers is an intelligent, disciplined cornerback who can play well against vast types of wide receivers. We've seen it throughout the season, but especially on Sunday against the Giants who use Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham, who all do different things well.
On occasion Rogers will allow too much cushion in a zone call but he doesn't let the receiver get behind him, preventing the big play. The 49ers are sporting a much improved defensive secondary this year because Rogers' all around performance. As good as he has been in coverage, he has also shown toughness and selflessness when it comes to run support.
Rogers is a surprisingly aggressive and efficient tackler, even on guys twice his size. On Sunday, Rogers did not shy away from lowering his shoulder on Brandon Jacobs or Jake Ballard. In fact, on a Giants third and medium in the 49ers red zone, Manning hit Ballard for a short gain before he was upended by Rogers, forcing New York to settle for 3 points.
Also the fact that Rogers is a league veteran adds a leadership quality the 49ers secondary has been without. Nate Clements wasn't performing, and therefore, could not effectively lead. Rogers is a veteran playing at a high level, which should improve the overall performance of the Niners secondary. Rogers is to the secondary as Patrick Willis is to the linebackers or Justin Smith is to the defensive line.
Before halftime, the Giants were driving downfield looking to take the lead on San Francisco. Victor Cruz was targeted by Manning and Rogers whiffed the play, but luckily Cruz dropped the ball. On the very next play, Manning took a shot again for Cruz deep but it was picked off by Rogers to stop the drive.
This was a clutch veteran play, much like Justin Smith's forced fumble against the Eagles or his batted ball against the Giants to seal the win for the 49ers on 4th down. Right now, Rogers is tied for first in the NFL with 5 interceptions and tied for second in the league in pass deflections with 16.
This was a great acquisition by the new Jim Harbaugh regime, and great coaching by Ed Donatell and superb utilization by Vic Fangio. Rogers' Pro Bowl caliber season could benefit the San Francisco team in January when most of the remaining teams tout strong passing attacks.
Hopefully the cornerback has bought into the magic in the bay area and decides to stay an extra few years. Even though Rogers' age (30) may be a deterrent come contract negotiation time, there is no doubting he can play at a high level. A lot of defensive backs can stay elite well into their 30's: Champ Bailey, Ed Reed, Charles Woodson and Brian Dawkins, to name a few.
Against Rogers, receivers will win some battles but Rogers makes sure he wins the war. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the week 11 contest versus Larry Fitzgerald, who is one of the best receivers in the league.
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