The Browns saw some wildly divergent results from nose tackle Shaun Rogers in their recent three-game, 12-day span. Against the Jaguars and Ravens, Rogers put up eight solo tackles and a sack in each contest. He was particularly dominant against Jacksonville's patchwork line, blocking and recovering a late field goal as well, and he showed amazing strength against Baltimore center Jason Brown and lest guard Ben Grubbs on inside running plays. Neither Ray Rice nor Le'Ron McClain were safe running to their left against a Cleveland 4-3 when Rogers lined up over Grubbs, and nobody was safe when he lined up as the nose tackle over center and peeled off to the left or right. Rogers proved over and over that he is absolutely a dominant force, despite the lack of playmakers around him.
However, in their Thursday night loss to the Broncos, Rogers was relatively silent most of the evening, amassing only two solo tackles and no sacks. Did the Denver offensive line have a better plan when it came to stopping him? Well, yes and no.
There was no doubt that Rogers was affected by the rib injury that had him listed as questionable on a short week. From the start, he appeared just a bit slower and more hesitant than he had against the Jags or Ravens. Problem is, when Rogers isn't at his best, he doesn't have players on the line who can step up their game and allow him to affect an offense. Any plays he makes, he makes on his own. Rogers suffered a stinger halfway through the third quarter of the Denver game and managed some decent pass pressures at the end, but it was very clear – the Broncos were not dealing with Shaun Rogers at his best.
Still, the always-excellent Denver line had some interesting blocking plans for him. When Rogers was lined up as the nose in a 3-4 (where he was most of the game; he played more 4-3 against the Jags and Ravens), Denver center Casey Wiegmann would take Rogers head-on, with a guard double-teaming. That was the common set, especially later in the game. A variation of the double-team occurred when Wiegmann would try and push Rogers off his base at the snap, with a guard chipping Rogers to the left or right in quick succession. This gave the offense a split-second to adjust before the furious rush began again (fig. 1).
In the end, I would say that Rogers' lack of production against the Broncos had just as much to do with his injuries as it did anything that Denver's line was doing. Still, I liked the strategy employed by their inside line. Few linemen can take Rogers one-on-one, and the Broncos prefer fast, light linemen who can block in tandem . Whether their schemes would have been as effective with a healthy Rogers is an interesting question, but it's now the Buffalo Bills who will be trying to solve the Rogers problem. Cleveland's best defensive player will have had a long rest, and he'll have the memory of the frustrating Denver game to drive him along. I wouldn't want to be Bills center Duke Preston when Monday night rolls around. Preston was overrun by Jets tackle Kris Jenkins two weeks ago, and Rogers is playing as well as Jenkins, Albert Haynesworth, or any elite tackle in the NFL.