'Skins' Rogers sizes up Bengals, still needs to buckle down

Cornerback excels early, wears out in 2nd quarter

August 24, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Carlos Rogers wasn't impressed.

In his first glimpse of NFL action, the highly touted rookie cornerback for the Washington Redskins matched up against Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson and fellow wide-out T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the Redskins' 24-17 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Friday night and surrendered a 45-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kelley Washington in that game.

But when he was asked about Cincinnati's wide receivers, Rogers wasn't gushing.

"I look at them like they're regular guys," Rogers said Monday. "We've got David Patten and Santana Moss - two good, fast receivers we go against every day. I say if I can compete with them, I can compete with anybody else out there."

Rogers' brashness has carried him into some sticky situations - challenging all comers to a footrace in high school, jumping into a video game competition even though he rarely played video games at Auburn - but it's a characteristic borne out of confidence, not swagger.

In his senior year at Auburn, Rogers was so feared that only 65 passes were thrown in his direction, 18 of which were completed (27.7 percent).

For his efforts, he won the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation's top defensive back, and was drafted by Washington with the ninth overall pick in April's draft.

Injuries to a depleted secondary forced Redskins coaches to start Rogers against the Bengals even though Rogers sat out most of the summer after undergoing surgery in June to repair a bone bruise and stress fracture in his right foot and ankle.

In that game, Rogers demonstrated the rewards and risks of being a rookie cornerback. His interception and 30-yard return of a Carson Palmer pass sparked Washington's first-team offense to its first touchdown of the preseason.

But Rogers tired in the second quarter, allowing Houshmandzadeh to get by him on a go route along the left sideline. Although Houshmandzadeh dropped what would have been a sure touchdown, receiver Washington ran the same pattern on the next play and scored.

After the game, Washington was quoted as saying, "It was like my opportunity to say, `Welcome to the NFL.'"

Informed of Washington's taunt, Rogers replied: "I just look at it like this: When I'm at full go and energetic and what I was in the earlier part of the game, I played pretty good, and he was out there then. Once I got tired, [my] backpedal got sloppy, I was real fatigued, and they sent new receivers in on my side about four times. He was the fourth receiver, and I was really tired."

Redskins secondary coach DeWayne Walker wouldn't post any excuses for Rogers but said he admired the 24-year-old cornerback's comfort level in his first NFL game.

"You could tell he had a lot of presence, which we like," Walker said. "I think early in the game, he looked like he belonged. Then as the game progressed, he's just got to understand what the pro game is all about versus college. But I think we've still got a couple more games left and hopefully that will be enough to get him ready to roll for the regular season."

Rogers is listed third on the depth chart behind Shawn Springs and Walt Harris, but Harris has been hampered for the past 10 days by a swollen calf. If Rogers continues to progress, he might start in Washington's season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 11.

If that happens, Rogers said he knows what to expect.

"It's like my freshman year [at] Auburn when I was coming in and starting and playing a lot. They came after me then," he said. "Nothing different here."

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