Rogers the Key Against Broncos

As Shaun Rogers goes, so do the Browns, as the big NT looks set to play...


The Browns have four new starters on defense - left end Kenyon Coleman, right outside linebacker David Bowens, inside linebacker Eric Barton and strong safety Abe Elam.

But the key defensive player for the Browns against the Broncos on Sunday in Denver is nose tackle Shaun Rogers. He has rare quickness for a man weighing 350 pounds and he's strong enough to force the Broncos to double- or triple-team him on virtually every play.

Rogers missed the entire preseason with a foot injury. He had fresh legs against the Vikings in the season opener. He sacked Brett Favre once, hit Favre another time, made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and finished with five tackles overall.

"He can take over a game at any time," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "He clears a lot of traffic for me. He's able to get penetration and make plays on his own. It makes my job a lot easier. Whatever plays he doesn't make, I clean up. I need as much beef as I can get up front. He takes up a lot of that space.

"It's just a matter of keeping him healthy, keeping him fresh and keeping the big guy happy. Right now, he's happy. You have to take care of him. You see him out, you buy him some dinner or whatever he needs. The big fella comes to work every day. For a guy hat big he's very athletic."

Rogers led the Browns with 4.5 sacks last season and led all Browns defensive linemen with 81 tackles. He had no sacks in the last eight games, so maybe by missing the preseason Rogers will be fresher longer this season.

Rogers credits genetics for his quickness and speed. He doesn't boast about it, but whenever he is asked about his basketball skills Rogers is happy to acknowledge he can dunk.

"All day," he said. "All day. Two hands, vertical, 360, whatever you want."

Coach Eric Mangini described Rogers' athleticism in another way.

"There was a great clip from practice," Mangini said. "The quarterback ended up scrambling to our left and Shaun Rogers - the acceleration he had from where he was to the quarterback, you would have thought he was a sprinter. Force equals mass times acceleration. I like that formula."

Rogers' foot injury in training camp surfaced two days after former Browns defensive lineman Shaun Smith, signed by the Lions two days after the Browns cut him on Aug. 8, told reporters in Detroit that his "best friend" Rogers wanted to return to the Lions. Rogers played for Detroit from 2001-2007 until the Browns acquired him in a trade early in free agency in 2008.

Smith's remarks made for some anxious moments in Cleveland, particularly since Rogers reportedly was miffed in January when Mangini ignored him at an awards dinner in Cleveland shortly after Mangini was hired by the Browns.

Rogers refused to talk to reporters during the nearly four weeks he did not practice. Adding to that, he appeared to be in no pain when he walked, and it seemed there could be merit in what Smith said.

When Rogers finally addressed the issue, he said his relationship with Mangini is "a joy" and that they respect each other as player and coach. He said he didn't want to talk about what Smith said because he isn't the one that made the statement. He prefers talking about how good the Browns can be defensively with 15 games left.

"We can be as good as we decide to be," Rogers said. "If we step up to the plate and execute we could be a top 10 team. If we don't we could be a bottom 10 team. If you look down our line, we have a lot of ability. We just have to put it together."

SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. Broncos lead the series 17-5. The Browns have lost to the Broncos eight straight times in the regular season. They also lost to John Elway and the Broncos three times in the AFC Championship Game in the last half of the 1980s. If there is any consolation for the Browns it is they are better against the Broncos in Denver than in Cleveland; they are 2-9 at home and 3-8 in Denver.


Cornerbacks are supposed to have short memories to survive the pressure that goes with playing on an island. Brandon McDonald learned in November the importance of training himself to not dwell on mistakes, but that doesn't mean he has total amnesia.

And just in case the starting right corner did somehow forget what happened the last time the Browns played the Broncos, he has been getting plenty of reminders in the locker room this week as his team prepares to face the Broncos in Denver on Sunday.

"Everybody knows what went on against the Denver team last year," McDonald said. "I made a vow to myself and my family and my teammates to try to never perform like that again.

"I'll prepare this week and try to get any tip I can on these guys like everyone else and hopefully we'll get a win on Sunday."

--Browns coach Eric Mangini and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels both earned three Super Bowl rings as assistant coaches with the Patriots. Mangini coached under Bill Belichick from 2000-2005. McDaniels was in New England from 2001-2008.

--It has been 23 years since John Elway broke the Browns' hearts with The Drive in the 1986 AFC Championship Game. Elway took over on the Broncos 2-yard line with 5:32 left and Denver trailing 20-13. Elway led a 15-play drive capped off with a 5-yard pass to Mark Jackson. Elway was 6 of 9 for 78 yards on The Drive. The killer was a 20-yard pass to Jackson on third-and-18.

It was an epic game. Bernie Kosar was 18 of 32 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown pass to Brian Brennan in the fourth quarter broke a 13-13 tie.

Rich Karlis won the game with a 33-yard field goal 5:38 into overtime. To this day, Browns fans are convinced the kick was outside the left upright.

--One year later the Browns and Broncos met for the AFC championship in Denver. That game has gone down in history as The Fumble. The Browns were driving for the tying touchdown to make the score 31-31 when cornerback Jeremiah Castille stripped the ball from Earnest Byner and recovered at the 3.

The second half of the rematch was one of the greatest Kosar ever played. The Brows trailed 21-3 at halftime. Kosar threw touchdown passes to Reggie Langhorne and Byner in the third quarter and one to Webster Slaughter in the fourth quarter.

--The Browns have never had a 100-yard rusher in 22 regular-season games against the Broncos. Their best rushing effort was 87 yards by Kevin Mack on Dec. 8, 1991.

--Kellen Winslow caught 11 passes from Brady Quinn in a game against the Broncos last year. Now Winslow plays for Tampa Bay.

BY THE NUMBERS: 104.3 - Brady Quinn's passer rating vs. the Broncos last year. Quinn was 23 of 35 for 239 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-30 loss.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "My son Jake (5 years old) after the game said, 'Who won?' He was there. That puts it in perspective. That's good." - Coach Eric Mangini talking about meeting up with his family after the Browns lost the opener to the Vikings, 34-20.


Rookie James Davis is the latest Browns running back bitten by the injury bug. Davis left in the fourth quarter of the opener with a shoulder injury and did not return. He did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday.

Jerome Harrison wears a brace on his left knee and Cedric Peerman has a thigh injury. Harrison practiced all week without restriction for the first time since the preseason opener Aug. 15 vs. Green Bay. Peerman was limited throughout the week.

Jamal Lewis, 30, is also hurting. Lewis had 104 combined yards against the Vikings - 57 rushing and 47 receiving - but was limited Wednesday and Thursday because of a stinger suffered in the opener. He was listed as probable by Friday and will play.

Aside from the shoulder injury, Davis found out just how different the preseason is from the regular season. Before the injury Davis rushed four times for 5 yards. It was a sharp contrast to the preseason when Davis averaged 7.8 yards a carry, just as Mangini said it would be. Davis caught three passes for 4 yards.

"I thought it was pretty tough," Davis said. "The speed of the game definitely changed. A lot of guys were a lot faster. But I thought I played a pretty good game."


--LB Leon Williams was waived Tuesday. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. Defensive back DeAngelo Smith was also cut. Both players were inactive for the opener.

--WR Ray Ventrone and OL Billy Yates were signed to fill the empty roster spots. Ventrone started his career as an undrafted rookie in 2005. He finally played two games for the Patriots in 2007and 15 last year, mostly on special teams. Coach Eric Mangini is looking for help on coverage units.

Yates played in 22 games in four seasons with the Patriots from 2005-08. He has 12 career starts, eight of them at right guard in 2008.

GAME PLAN: Fortunately for the Browns they do not have to face Adrian Peterson every week, but since Peterson did rush for 180 yards against them in the opener, 155 of them in the second half, the Browns can expect the Broncos to try to run first.

Correll Buckhalter was the Broncos' leading rusher in a 12-7 victory over the Bengals last week with 46 yards on eight carries. The Browns are working on doing a better job of forming an edge on the outside to funnel the running back inside where there are more defenders to make the tackle.

Last week the Browns showed they will attack the quarterback more aggressively. They sacked Brett Favre four times. But until they prove they can stop the run all the sacks won't matter.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns RCB Brandon McDonald vs. Broncos WR Eddie Royal. McDonald has a score to settle with the Broncos. He gave up a 93-yard touchdown pass to Royal last year and was on the bench for the start of the next game. He sat out only one play, but it was enough to get his attention. Royal caught six passes for 164 yards in the game last year.

Browns QB Brady Quinn vs. Broncos LCB Champ Bailey. The Browns move WR Braylon Edwards around. When Bailey is paired with Edwards the edge goes to Bailey. Quinn's longest downfield completion last week until he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Robert Royal in garbage time was 18 yards to rookie Mohamed Massaquoi. An interception is a likely result if Quinn tries to force a long pass to Edwards with Bailey covering.


--RB James Davis practiced on a limited basis again Friday. He was held from practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury, and is listed as questionable.

--LB David Bowens was limited in practice Friday with a knee injury that has bothered him since early in training camp. He is listed as questionable.

--RB Jerome Harrison practiced without restriction for the third straight day. He missed the last three preseason games and the opener with a knee injury. He is listed as probable.

--P Dave Zastudil has a sore right knee but it did not prohibit him from practicing.

--A neck injury limited RB Jamal Lewis in practice Thursday, but he fully expects to start against the Broncos and practiced Friday.

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