Commentary | Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie finds perfect fit with Denver Broncos

adell@bradenton.comJune 29, 2013 

When the Denver Broncos' coaches sat down with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last March and pointed out his weaknesses. they didn't know what to expect.

The free-agent cornerback was looking for a team, and the Broncos needed someone to play cornerback opposite Champ Bailey, who is in the twilight of his career.

While most NFL players want to hear how good they are, Denver won DRC over with a critique.

The former Lakewood Ranch High star shut down his plans to visit other teams.

"They told me about my flaws. Nobody had done that, and it impressed me," Rodgers-Cromartie said Friday, wrapping up his three-day basketball camp at the Palmetto Boys and Girls Club. "They told me what I needed to work and how they would get me better instead of telling me about what I could do."

The Broncos see a wealth of talent in DRC, but are looking for consistency.

"He has been blessed with a lot of abilities. and we want him to develop that talent and be a more consistent performer. He can help us and help himself," Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said.

The opportunity to go against quarterback Peyton Manning every day in practice and play for a defense that is maybe a cornerback away from being elite was enticing. But the Broncos' insistence that he would be guaranteed nothing but a staff dedicated to help him reach his potential was the selling point for DRC.

It showed how much he has matured. The Lakewood Ranch product had a lot of reasons not to listen to the Broncos. He was a first-round draft pick in 2008 (16th overall), made the Pro Bowl in his second year and was being compared to some of the greats of the game.

DRC knows greatness is a fickle commodity and does not fear criticism.

He was part of the Philadelphia Eagles' dream team that turned into a nightmare, particularly on a defense so many thought would be the best in the NFL.

The Broncos also will allow DRC to do what he does best, which is play man coverage.

In Philadelphia, he was used a lot covering the slot, which doesn't take advantage of his length and quickness.

"The Denver defense is a lot of man to man, and that is my strongest suit," the 6-foot-2, 182-pound DRC said. "Practice is a lot of fun because every day you are going against the best and getting thrown at by someone of Manning's caliber. He interacts with everybody and doesn't think he is bigger or better than anybody. But he is the hardest working man on the field."

DRC is penciled in at cornerback opposite Bailey, but he is not talking about depth charts. His only goal is to help make the Broncos a better team.

"I still just feel blessed that I am able to play this game and every chance I go out there I want to do the best that I can," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "This is a great organization that accepted me the first day I got there. John Elway (Denver vice president of football operations) knows every player by first name and has come up to me and asked how I am doing. The main thing is that they are allowing me to do what I do best."

DRC and Manning have gone back and forth in camp. The 27-year-old has picked off the wily old pro in scrimmages and gotten burned.

"I got him a few times, and he got me. But we are all getting better because of him," Rodgers-Cromartie said.

Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas had nothing but praise for DRC after competing against him in OTAs and a recently completed minicamp.

"He is one of the best I've seen, who can recover after he gets beat because his hips are so fast," Thomas said. "He is like Champ. Going against both of those guys every day in practice is a real battle. They both are the best."

Going against Mike Vick at Philadelphia and now Manning has been beneficial for DRC.

"Both throw the ball very well and with Mike you have the dynamics of running. You know Peyton is going to pick you apart and has been doing this a long time," he said.

DRC also can be counted on to stay out of trouble. His only vice is a celebrated wardrobe that could get him arrested by the fashion police, but it's all in fun.

He is aware of the high number of arrests NFL players incur during the offseason, which this year is highlighted by the incarceration of ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on a murder charge.

"I believe it's a focus thing. Players have a lot of free time now and a lot of money, and you have to be careful how you spend your time," DRC said. "Nobody knows what I do because I don't talk about it, but really I am with the kids everyday doing things like this camp and helping them. I am at the Southeast gym coaching and playing basketball with them every day."

Alan Dell, Bradenton Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-748-7050, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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