- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Only 14 months ago, cornerback Carlos Rogers was drafted ninth overall by the Washington Redskins. It might as well be 14 years because a rookie season in the NFL can be measured in dog years.

“It seems a lot longer than a year,” Rogers said recently, “because I’ve spent so much time over here.”

This offseason in particular, Redskin Park has served as Rogers’ primary residence. He has spent hours working with new cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray, reviewing video of his rookie campaign and the techniques of the league’s top receivers and corners. On the field, Rogers has improved his fundamentals.

The work has paid off. The Redskins coaches thought enough of Rogers’ progress that they released veteran Walt Harris and Rogers will start opposite Shawn Springs when the team’s full-squad mini camp begins Friday.

“I’m up for the challenge,” Rogers said. “This year, I understand things a lot more. Jerry is working with me on how he looked at things when he played.”

Rogers had 42 tackles and two interceptions last year. He improved as the season progressed and earned a starting position in early December.

Gray has high expectations for Rogers’ second season.

“Each defensive back in this league has the opportunity to make 10-12 interceptions — they just have to catch them,” he said. “This year, Carlos should say, ‘What did I learn last year and how can I get better?’ He shouldn’t be so worried about receivers always running the go pattern. The better he understands that, the better he’ll be.”

To that end, Gray has worked with Rogers this offseason about simple, yet important fundamentals that will help him jump an out pattern and make a big play.

“I thought I was advanced, but there is a bunch of little stuff I’m learning,” Rogers said.

One example: “Last year, once I saw a receiver come out of his break 10 yards down the field, I would look back to the quarterback,” he said. “The coaches kept banging and banging into my head that I need to look at the receiver for two to three fast steps and then get my eyes on the quarterback. Instead of looking right at the ball and start thinking interception, I need to first make sure they don’t turn up field again.”

When he arrived from Buffalo in January, Gray watched all of Rogers’ games from last year and, combined with his scouting of Rogers at Auburn, came up with an offseason plan.

“He can diagnose and read and eliminate things as they come at him,” Gray said. “The thing I want him to focus on is making the big play. If he’s in position, he has to go ahead and finish the job.”

As a rookie, Rogers was always willing, but his body wasn’t always able. He started seven of 14 games (including playoffs), being eased into the lineup like Sean Taylor was in 2004 and Rocky McIntosh is expected to be this year. But when it became apparent Rogers was an upgrade over Harris, he started the last five games he played.

Injuries had Rogers running in place during the season’s first half. A right foot stress fracture delayed his training camp debut, a balky ankle sidelined him in Week 5 against San Francisco and he missed the final three regular-season games with a biceps injury.

“It was kind of like going back and forth,” he said. “But later in the season, I started picking it up and taking more and more steps forward. And [this offseason], I’ve started where I ended and continued progressing.”

In his last three regular season games, Rogers had 22 tackles, four pass break-ups and two interceptions. Rogers turned the corner against San Diego when he replaced an ineffective Harris. He officially became a starter the next week.

“That’s when I really started to feel comfortable playing with the first team,” Rogers said. “I benefited a lot from [watching] early, really learning from Shawn and Walt and doing extra work in the classroom. Coming in as a rookie and top pick, you think you’re going to do this and that because that’s what you did in college. But the game is much faster here. Because I was able to sit back and watch, I’m more comfortable this year from the get go.”

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