As a rookie last season, Rouse started three games in place of an injured Nick Collins. He intercepted passes in two of those starts — two more interceptions than Collins recorded in 13 starts — leading many insiders to believe he would challenge Collins for a starting job during training camp.
That battle seemingly was over before it started. Collins' starting role was never in doubt, and Rouse was relegated mainly to special teams during the first two games.
Now, with hard-hitting Bigby out, Rouse has another chance to win over the coaches.
"I'm looking forward to going out there and taking full advantage of this opportunity to show what I'm about," the towering 6-foot-4 Rouse said after Wednesday's practice.
Rouse is in for a big challenge against the Cowboys, who will attack the second-year pro from Virginia Tech with superb tight end Jason Witten and the physical Marion Barber at running back. If history is an indication, the defense will do more than survive.
"I thought he was very productive. Very productive in his opportunities that were given to him last year," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He competed throughout training camp. He's played two games so far this year, played very well in the first game, had some bumps in the road in the second game. He's getting more experience, but he's shown the ability to be very productive when he is out there."
Rouse, who missed part of the workweek leading to the Detroit game with a sprained ankle, had an up-and-down performance in place of Bigby in the second half against the Lions.
"What happened last Sunday, obviously (the ankle) was a factor. The main focus is on what's going to happen this week," said Rouse, optimistic he'll be 100 percent healthy by Sunday night.
Along with getting first-team reps during practice, Rouse said he'll spend more time watching film in trying to learn any tendencies displayed by the powerful Cowboys offense.
Rouse admits he'll be extra fired up because of everything surrounding this game — opportunity to start, battle of 2-0 teams, a prime-time TV appearance — but said it will be important to rein in his emotions and his eagerness to make something happen.
"When you're playing like a good team such as the Dallas Cowboys, one of the main things you want to do is be disciplined," Rouse said. "It's not all about going out there and trying to make plays. One of the main things is know your role and your responsibility and keep to it."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org