When I first heard that Shaun Rogers had been released by the Cleveland Browns, I wasn’t taken aback.
Here’s a guy who has had legal issues and struggled to get on with his most recent head coach. More to the point, he wasn’t a great fit for their 3-4 defense the Browns were running. He never played badly, and was always making plays, but Cleveland wanted a guy like Ahytba Rubin who could stuff the run in a two gap 3-4.
So it wasn’t a surprise when he was relegated to situational duty and told to go get himself some quarterback. It was a mild surprise, that a Cleveland team switching to the 4-3, would say goodbye to him. Granted Rogers had some money coming his way they’d rather not pay, and a new defensive co-ordinator Dick Jauron that may have had his fill of him while he was his head coach in Detroit.
But this is a guy who can still go. And I’m going to prove it if you didn’t already know.
Getting to the passer
You know what I’d hate if I was a quarterback? I’d hate not being able to step up into my throws. It’s why guys like Ndamukong Suh and Tommy Kelly are nightmares for offensive coordinators. They push interior lineman back, get up the field and prevent quarterbacks from doing what they want to do. It’s why these same offensive co-ordinators hate Shaun Rogers.
So how do I know they hate him? Well I did one of my fun little studies. I looked at our numbers and saw how much a defensive tackle rushed the quarterback. Then I looked at how much pressure he got. And you know what I saw in Rogers? A guy who in 272 pass rushes got to the quarterback for three sacks, 12 hits and 15 further pressures. That kind of ratio was third best among all defensive tackles who played more than 200 snaps.
Better than Haloti Ngata. Better than Kevin Williams. Heck it was even better than my man crush Kyle Williams.
I’m going to drop an “E” bomb: those are “Elite” numbers, and Rogers continues to be an elite pass rusher.
Take our grading system for example. We’ve been going three years now. Want to know the pure pass rushing grading for Rogers in that time?
- 2008, he finished 2nd
- 2009, he finished 3rd (in an injury shortened year)
- 2010, he finished 7th (despite being relegated to a situational role)
That’s not just consistency. That’s dominance.
To 3-4, or not 3-4, that is the question
It’s not that he’s miscast as a 3-4 nose tackle. Plenty of guys like Jay Ratliff, Antonio Garay and B.J. Raji have taken on a nose tackle role that is less about eating up blocks, and more about disrupting plays.
Indeed Rogers has always done well in run defense when asked to play in a one gap scheme. In 2008 he finished 14th in our run defense rankings, and 5th of all nose tackles. He’s capable of making plays in run defense no doubt, just not as a more conventional nose tackle.
No, if you really want to get the best out of him, you want him going up field. That’s letting him target the quarterback and blow up run plays – that’s what he does as well as anyone.
Which is why it is somewhat surprising we’re getting a glut of 3-4 teams looking at Rogers to soothe their nose tackles. We know why they’re doing it. Desperation. Rogers is a good player and he has the right size. So put him on the nose and watch him go.
He’ll manhandle centers in one on one match ups, no doubt. The amount of times he did it this year in a limited role tells us that (if you don’t believe me ask Jonathan Goodwin or the Saints, or Jeff Faine of Tampa what they think). But he’ll also struggle to cope with being double teamed, and it can breed an ill-disciplined side of his game that sees him lose leverage when he tries getting inside.
Want to know what I’d do with him? I’d plump him in a four-man line, and let him use that uncanny burst and ridiculous power. Guys like Rogers aren’t easy to find, and you want to maximize that skill set on every down. You don’t want to save him for a situational role when he can have such a big impact all game long and in every phase.
Which for me leaves a number of desirable locations. In the NFL there are a lot of players who swap teams for divisional foes. And why wouldn’t there be. They scout them twice a year so have a better take on them. So the most logical solution would see the big tackle going to a team like the Cincinnati Bengals. This is a team that is crying out for defensive tackle help, and won’t be scared off by some of the questionable decisions Rogers has made. He’d upgrade their whole defense immediately. If ever a guy could turn a “Nearly Team” into a “Now Team” then it’s interior terror, Shaun Rogers.
And how about this for one out of left field. There have been some murmurs that the allergic-to-free-agency Colts, could be looking to revamp things with some off-season investment. They’ve tried and failed to use the draft to turn that terrible interior defensive line into something. Now they could have a guy like Shaun Rogers available to provide inside push while Freeney and Mathis attack the edges. How would teams cope with that?
If I’m a GM of either team right now, I’m making a phone call and getting the 31-year-old Rogers on the first plane to either Ohio or Indiana. Because if you don’t, plenty of other teams will.