SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers intercepts a pass intended for Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants at Candlestick Park on November 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Carlos Rogers is the No. 1 cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers and their elite defense. Coming over from the Washington Redskins, Rogers now starts in Vic Fangio's 3-4 system in the Bay Area. Needless to say, Rogers' career has taken a steep climb upward since his arrival.
Even coming in a shortened league-year, Fangio turned this defense into a top-3 unit. In his third stint as an NFL defensive coordinator, Fangio has a decorated and proven background in this league.
Fangio comes from the Dom Capers school of defense. The two worked together in Carolina from 1995-1998, and then again in Houston from 2002-2005. Capers was the head coach for the Texans and brought Fangio in to be his defensive coordinator.
As coordinators, the two will face off against one another in Week 1 as Capers now runs the Packers defense. The similarities are visible in their defensive systems, but for this piece specifically, I'd like to discuss the impact of the cornerback -- particularly the player with the No. 1 role.
As mentioned before, Fangio came in during a league year handicapped by an extensive lockout. There was not enough time to install 100-percent of his system, and instead had to keep things simple. And even during such a year, we saw Carlos Rogers blitz and line up at all three corner positions, (LCB, RCB and Nickel). Rogers also matched up with every which receiver; he wasn't strictly held to the team's No. 1 receiver
In Fangio' system, Rogers' role does require him to move around quite a bit, which makes his assignments hard to predict.
So, reflecting on 2011 and considering Fangio's background, it's understandable that Rogers' role as the team's top corner and defensive leader could expand.
In 2012, it's possible that we could see more blitzing from Rogers and certainly more disguises. It is particularly in zone coverage's that Rogers has the freedom to run at the quarterback.
With offenses so focused on the front seven -- particularly the right side made of Justin Smith and Aldon Smith -- most quarterbacks won't see Rogers coming free on the left. It also helps that Rogers is fast and the 49ers have a reliable enough secondary to allow their best cover corner run at the QB.
A number of teams take to the option of sending members of their secondary after the quarterback. It makes sense: they're naturally fast players and it's not typically in their job description. We've seen successful results when informed defensive coordinators have applied it to the right players.
Roman Harper was an effective blitzer for New Orleans, recording a team-high 7.5 sacks as a defensive back in 2011.
Green Bay Packers' cornerback Charles Woodson had two sacks in 2011 as a versatile player in Capers' defensive scheme. Woodson also had a league-high 7 interceptions on the season. And in retrospect, his skill and unpredictability is complementary in that it makes him more effective as a blitzer and cover corner.
The mystery behind Woodson's assignment (since his lines up everywhere) throws offenses for a loop. And in turn, this results in him having unreal opportunities to make a play on the football or have a free shot at the opposing team's passer.
With Fangio adding layers to his defense this offseason, veteran Carlos Rogers could be in a position to see his role expand. He is perhaps the smartest and one of the fastest members of the 49ers' secondary. He has the reliability, awareness and field presence to excel with this added responsibility.
The 49ers will not show their hand during the exhibition, but don't be surprised if Rogers' role develops this season.