Shaun Rogers: Worth the risk, and then some

| February 11, 2011

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.

The Choice

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.

  • tim tellean

    Apparrently Rogers is due to vist the Redskins.

  • yaopau

    I’d love for the Bears to take a chance on him. It was frustrating seeing Peppers get double teamed play after play while their DTs couldn’t take advantage. One stud DT and I think Lovie can finally implement the blitz-heavy defense he’s always wanted.

  • JoeyG

    Everything you say is correct, but you forgot a couple things.

    He’s fat, lazy, and unmotivated. He earned his nickname “Big Baby” several times over. He’s been paid $23 million over the last three seasons and didn’t earn it.

    He can be dominating when he wants to, but he rarely wants to. He’s out of shape, injury prone, and milks each injury for maximum time off the field. They practically named an exercise bike for him in Cleveland this season.

    At $5.5 million, he was expendable and not tradeable. A shame, we could have used a late round pick for him. Chalk this up as another brilliant Phil Savage deal.

    Talent wasted.

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

      My only contention with that would be that during his time with Cleveland, when he’s been on the field he’s made things happen. I do think Heckert made an interesting point about Roger being on losing teams, and how that has almost created a disinterest in him.

      Like rodney says, it will be really interesting if Rogers gets to a winning organization that demands everything from him and in return offers him a little of something he’ never had before: success.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

    Apparently ten teams are interested in him, and if the Redskins want him to play as a one gap NT like he did in 2008 then he’s a big pick up considering how Kemoeatu struggled (he’s more of a prototype nose tackle anyways).

    I just think for 3-4 teams there’s a danger in thinking Rogers will solve all their defensive woes, where as if you put him in a 4-3 and tell him to go up field (somewhat ironically I think Detroit’s defense is perfect for him, but they have the depth) he’ll be a difference maker on every down.

    I thought long and hard about him for Chicago. I definitely think he upgrades their defense, but in a 4-3 you don’t use him as a rotation guy. You use him to start, and I wonder if Chicago are content enough with their starters to focus on areas of the team that really struggled (namely the offensive line),

    • yaopau

      Tommie Harris is on his way out.

      • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

        Makes a lot of sense. His contract isn’t expiring, so is there a timeframe to be expecting him to be cut? Or will the Bears try to ship him around if/ when a CBA gets done.

        Rogers and Peppers on the same line is pretty unfair.

  • rodneyhartjr

    Outside of their hesitancy to pick up free agents and “questionable” character guys, there is no doubt that he would be a great fit for the Colts. As you clearly highlighted, he would bring to the colts D-line a scary element they have lacked. It would also allow their smaller, quicker lineman like Foster to play to their strengths given the BIG presence Rodgers is.

    Plus on the “non numbers” side of the equation, there is something tjat happens when a guy as talented as Rodgers gets his first chance to play in a really good organization. Ultimately guy’s true colors surface (see: Randy Moss), but sometimes just putting a guy as talented as Rodgers in an organization that will demand his best every play just works…even if only for a year.

    Rodgers as a Colt is much scarier than as a Bengal, Redskin, (insert other underperforming team here), etc.

    As a Patriots fan I am rooting for another Dan Snyder $100 million contract to replace the other guy with questionable you had playing the same position (anybody else seeing the irony there?).

  • themo

    What do you think of adding him as a 3-4 end? Or a really hybrid scheme like Rex Ryan runs. I think he might be an amazing fit for the Jets.

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

      My personal take is the Jets have bigger needs. Free agency creates issues at wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback for them. I’d focus more on trying to pick up a pass rusher, and tie down Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce for another year. Rogers would have impact (especially on passing downs), but the Jets have Devito and Pouha who warrant 1st and 2nd down snaps as starters, and Ellis is coming off a real good year. Rogers needs to be starting somewhere given what he is likely to command, and the Jet need isn’t anywhere near great enough to push that.

      Those would be my ramblings on that.

  • harryddunn

    He won’t go to Chicago. Marinelli, in his infinite wisdom, ran him out of town because he didn’t give enough effort, replacing him with the woeful Chuck Darby.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

    It almost seems like you haven’t forgotten the 0-16, Harry.

    Is there a difference between being a HC and DC? As a HC a players attitude is your concern. As a DC, a players talent is your concern. If he turns into a headcase its not your problem. Maybe having that thinking, sees Marinelli keen to get a guy who (assuming a CBA gets sorted out) is one of the top three defensive tackles on the market.

    • harryddunn

      “Is there a difference between being a HC and DC? As a HC a players attitude is your concern. As a DC, a players talent is your concern. If he turns into a headcase its not your problem. Maybe having that thinking, sees Marinelli keen to get a guy who (assuming a CBA gets sorted out) is one of the top three defensive tackles on the market.”

      In normal cases, probably. But Marinelli’s still pretty fanatical about effort, even as a DC. He sat Tommie Harris for stretches and in film keeps track of whenever a player “dogs it” on a given play.

  • Play4Blood

    One gap, get up the field…

    You’re singing Al Davis’ song.

    The Raiders could use some depth at DT, and Rogers could look pretty good rotating in with Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour. Factor in guys like Lamar Houston and Desmond Bryant, who play inside ant out, and you’ve got a pretty disruptive…and deep…group.

    I don’t trust Rogers to be a full time starter. But coming off the bench, backing up at both NT and UT? Now that’s something I can get behind.

    • yaopau

      Random thought, as I was just thinking about the NE/OAK Seymour trade. Dumbest trade of the past two years, am I right?

      Belichick earned praise by getting a 1st for a 29 year old. But two seasons later, two years of Brady’s prime are now gone without a ring, and the Pats still haven’t found anyone who’s matched Seymour’s production over the past two years.

      Who knows if keeping Seymour would’ve made a difference, but Brady turns 34 this year, meaning there isn’t much of a window left.

      • Rick Drummond

        Can’t say how Patriot fans are feeling about it now, but Raider fans are sure on board with penciling in Seymour as their 2011 1st rounder … if he needs to be tagged, so be it, but if he eventually works out the finish-as-a-Raider contract he seems open to, all the better.

    • Rick Drummond

      I wouldn’t put it past Al to take a look. The Raider D-line is already their deepest and best-built position group, but – contract numbers aside – I’m sure adding yet another stud to the interior rotation would please the old man.

  • jakuvious

    He’s currently meeting with the Chiefs, supposedly.

  • mvillar

    He has worked out with the Saints. We can use him.