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Philadelphia Eagles: Why I'm Not Yet Sold on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09:  Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie #23 and Nate Allen #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate after an interception as Travis Benjamin #80 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during their season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

You're welcome, Philadelphia Eagles fans. 

Last week, I suggested to the Cleveland Browns—and you know they're reading—that they target cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in their Week 1 matchup with Philadelphia.

Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress listened, I guess, because no Philadelphia defender was targeted more than Rodgers-Cromartie, according to Pro Football Focus.

The problem for Cleveland—in addition to the fact that rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was utterly ineffective—was that DRC rose to the occasion in the first game of what is supposed to be a new chapter for him as Philly's No. 2 corner opposite Nnamdi Asomugha.

As per usual, the stellar Asomugha was barely thrown at, leaving Weeden to look Rodgers-Cromartie's way seven times during the game. And on only one of those occasions did he walk away with a completion. 

That's why he's PFF's top-ranked corner in the league through one week. But a careful look at what went down on the seven plays in which he was targeted is causing me to temper my enthusiasm. 

 

Target 1

It's the fourth play from scrimmage all season, and DRC is up against Mohamed Massaquoi. Anticipating a post pattern, he breaks in, biting on a subtle Massaquoi move. He's caught flat-footed as Massaquoi continues on a go-route.

As a result, Massaquoi gets a full step on him. But the pass is overthrown by Weeden, landing where that yellow dot is out of bounds. Had it been on the money, it would've been an easy touchdown.

 

Target 2

Cromartie is lined up man-to-man on rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin. It's a 3rd-and-9 on what is the first offensive series of both Benjamin's and Weeden's careers.

Weeden appears to lock in on Benjamin, even though DRC has perfect coverage on a slant route from Benjamin. 

No space. Easy breakup. It would have been hard to intercept, and it wasn't a terrible throw from Weeden. But it was blanket coverage and a bit of a lazy route from the fourth-round pick out of Miami.

 

Target 3

This is the only pass Cromartie officially gets beat on all day. Again, it's Benjamin running a slant.

This time, he gets a little more separation coming out of his break, and Weeden's throw is good.

He'd make the catch and get a few extra yards for a first down. Lackluster job from DRC, but nothing to be embarrassed about.

 

Target 4

Later in the second quarter, Cromartie shows off perfect cover skills and combines that with his ability to make big plays. Again lined up against Benjamin in single coverage. 

Five yards downfield...

15 yards downfield...

25 yards downfield...

And finally making the interception 40 yards downfield...

Bigger, stronger and more experienced than his opponent. And an example of a rookie quarterback trying to force it on a third down. Great play, but what was Weeden thinking?

 

Target 5

Déjà vu in the third quarter, with Weeden again taking a shot at Benjamin despite perfect coverage. Again, Cromartie stays right with Benjamin on a stop'n'go pattern. 

12 yards down field, still blanketed...

22 yards down field, he's in perfect position and there's nothing Benjamin can do as DRC secures the pick..

Again, impressive coverage. But most quarterbacks don't attempt that pass. I'm not taking points away from DRC for that, but it might not be something that comes up down the stretch.

 

Target 6

Later in the third quarter, it's once again Benjamin on the bottom of your screen. The pass rush is strong, and Weeden has no chance to go through progressions, throwing it by default to Benjamin, early on a drag route.

Cromartie is again there with him to break it up.

Just doing his job.

 

Target 7

Final offensive play of the game for Cleveland, and DRC is on Massaquoi again. This play would result in a game-ending interception from Kurt Coleman, but you'll see that the coverage from Rodgers-Cromartie isn't that great.

This is actually a decent decision from Weeden. The coverage is superb all over the field, except you can see in the all-22 shot here—if you look closely, anyway—that Rodgers-Cromartie is losing his balance and falling after making quite a lot of contact with Massaquoi coming out of his break. In fact, he probably could have been called for a defensive hold here.

Regardless, Massaquoi emerges open, but the throw is terrible and Coleman picks it off.

So here's the big question: How much would Rodgers-Cromartie have been beaten by a half-decent quarterback in Week 1? What about a great quarterback?

Joe Flacco is the reigning AFC offensive player of the week. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are a little more skilled and dangerous than Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin. That's who DRC will be facing in Week 2. Two weeks later, it's Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. And so on and so on.

I like the job he did on Benjamin, but Rodgers-Cromartie definitely benefited a few times Sunday from the fact that he was facing a pathetic offense running cookie-cutter routes.

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