San Fransisco 49ers: What To Make Of Carlos Rogers' Hot Start
Going into the second quarter of the 2011 season, the 49ers have jumped out of the gates by thumping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a the tune of 48-3. It was a great, all-around performance by the team. The offense was clicking.
The defense bullied the Bucs offense all day. The special teams unit won the field position battle.
One notable element to the surging 49ers is their ability to force turnovers. With another three take aways on Sunday, the 49ers are plus-10, good for second place behind the Buffalo Bills.
49ers free agent acquisition, Carlos Rogers, has made his presence felt in the 49ers secondary the past three weeks, picking off passes in each game.
Sunday against the Bucs, he scored a touchdown, returning a Josh Freeman interception for 31 yards.
Rogers, known around the league for having terrible ball skills, looks like a brand new player for the red and gold. He's been establishing himself more with each game.
Making plays for his team also helps the 49ers defense, which has been a very opportunistic bunch this season.
Looking back at other recent free agent signings at the cornerback position, will Rogers' success continue a trend or is it an aberration?
The following slides will take a close look at a couple of free agent corners the 49ers signed over the years, comparing their performance to that of Rogers.
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Back in 2006, the 49ers signed cornerback Walt Harris to the team to help shore up a porous secondary.
Up until joining the 49ers, Harris was a steady defender who was good in coverage, but was below average in terms of ball skills and play recognition.
However, his first year in San Fransisco was phenomenal, to say the least. After racking up a career high eight interceptions, Harris was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
It wasn't so much the interceptions that got him recognition, but his football IQ was much improved by the time he joined the 49ers.
Playing in a secondary with unproven starters outside of Tony Parrish, teams licked their chops to throw the football against he 49ers.
Harris made good with the increased opportunities he had each week and rode it all the way to getting some recognition throughout the league.
Where the 49ers erred with Harris' signing was that in 2006, he was already on the wrong side of 30, yet the team continued to push him like a long term answer at cornerback.
In just two years after his career season, Harris was no longer in top form and the athletic rejuvenation he had in 2006 was all but gone.
The 49ers were fortunate to get a Pro Bowl caliber season out of Harris, but at best he was nothing more than a one year stop gap.
A year after Walt Harris' breakout season, the 49ers knew they still needed a ton of help in the secondary.
Tony Parrish was released and the team was highly unsettled at safety.
In comes Nate Clements from Buffalo.
Clements came off of a six interception season in 2006 with the Buffalo Bills, having played himself into a great contract. The 49ers signed him to an eight year, 80 million dollar deal.
About five years younger than Harris, Clements was thought of as a good signing. During his first year in San Fransisco, Clements didn't disappoint.
Despite 2007 being a down year for the team, he lived up to his billing as a top corner, recording 92 tackles, four interceptions, and 14 passes defensed.
The numbers don't generally tell the who story, but Clements played well when matched up against Larry Fitzgerald, the NFC West's best receiver.
However, subsequent seasons in San Fransisco exposed flaws in his game that. The more time he spent with the 49ers, the more it seemed that he was overrated, especially when playing against less than stellar talent.
It didn't help that Clements possessed instincts more akin to safety play than a cornerback. After a few terrible games under his belt, 49er fans were calling for his replacement.
One he pushed passed the age of 30, the cries for change become louder in the Bay Area.
In hindsight, Clements wasn't a bad signing. He just wasn't the best signing.
Clements had to figure that he would probably never see the end of that monster contract he signed. Only one good year out of your highest paid player is enough to make any coach or GM lose their heads.
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At 30 years old, Carlos Rogers is having a very productive season in San Fransisco.
After racking up only eight interceptions during his first six years in the league, he's almost half way toward his career total.
His number's don't tell the entire story.
Rogers is helping the younger players in the secondary, not only by leading by example on the field, but also off of it.
After practices, Rogers stays behind with defensive backs coach, Ed Donatell, to work on catching passes to improve his ball skills for in game situations. So far, it looks as if the extra time at practice is paying off.
With the formula for success that Coach Jim Harbaugh is implementing in San Fransisco, Rogers is stop gap at corner for 49ers.
Harbaugh believes in building through the draft and the previous coaching regimes never address the cornerback position because of their overconfidence in Nate Clements.
Harbaugh understands that Rogers is not the long term solution at corner and will continue to upgrade the position in the coming seasons.
With Chris Culliver and Tremaine Brock receiving more playing time with injuries to Shawntae Spencer, the two young corners have three interceptions between them in five games.
If Brock and Culliver can continue to work on their game and learn from Rogers, the future of the 49ers secondary is looking bright.
Unlike Harris and Clements, Rogers' success today will not hinder the teams approach to the game tomorrow.