When the Lions traded Shaun Rogers to the Browns in ’08, I had mixed feelings. As someone who watched Rogers completely take over games, it was hard to lose a player of that caliber. On the other hand, as someone who watched Rogers take entire games off, it was also somewhat of a relief to see him go.
Now it seems that the Cleveland Browns are considering a position move for him. According to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mr. Rogers’ new neighborhood may be at defensive end rather than at nose tackle where he has played the past two years. The Browns are said to be happy with the play of Ahtyba Rubin, who filled in at nose tackle when Rogers was injured last year.
Because of Rogers’ great size and ability to explode off the snap (although that explosion sometimes fails to go off, as Lions and Browns fans can attest), one could argue that he would be an excellent DE in a 3-4 scheme like Cleveland runs. The major question would be whether or not he has the lateral agility and play-recognition skills to go to a position that demands a bit more finesse than the “collapse the middle of the line” philosophy of a nose tackle.
Another perhaps more important question is how Rogers would react to the move. Recent history may provide the answer. The Lions picked up defensive tackle Corey Williams this year from the Browns after they converted him from a DT to a DE in the Browns’ 3-4. Williams, who had a great deal of success playing DT in a 4-3 scheme in Green Bay, was frustrated at DE and by all accounts is thrilled to be back at DT in Detroit.
Another similar situation in Washington has Albert Haynesworth throwing a king-sized conniption fit over the plan to move him from a DT in a 4-3 defense to a DE or NT in a 3-4. Sacks, tackles for loss and other important statistics like that are harder to obtain from the NT or DE position of a 3-4 defense. Haynesworth is afraid that his personal legacy will be jeopardized by his relegation to a less glorious role in the trenches (whether or not it will improve the Redskins defense does not seem to be a consideration for him).
Rogers has apparently accepted his role at nose tackle in Cleveland, so the Browns have reason to hope he would accept a move to DE with grace. However, if the Browns fail to handle the potential position change properly, they could have a 350-pound Big Baby on their hands.