Commentary | Super Bowl-bound Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looking at big payday

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is trending at the perfect time.

It should bring the Denver Broncos cornerback out of Lakewood Ranch a hefty contract after the Super Bowl.

He is the beneficiary of changing times in the NFL, but give him credit. DRC has worked hard.

Rodgers-Cromartie is a big reason Denver is in the Super Bowl. If you don't believe it, just look at last year's AFC title game, when the Broncos secondary got burned on a big pass play that gave the Baltimore Ravens the victory.

A change in NFL rules have made true cover corners invaluable.

With safeties no longer allowed to deliver lethal blows to receivers, more teams are going to man coverage. That plays right into DRC's strength.

He is Denver's best cover guy and one of the best in the league. After the Super Bowl, he will be an unrestricted free agent.

DRC has held opposing quarterbacks to a pedestrian 67.8 quarterback rating. He has intercepted three passes, led Denver with 10 pass deflections in the regular season and had three passes defended in the AFC divisional playoff game against the San Diego Chargers.

This is no small feat.

Most teams have to score a lot of points to keep up with the Broncos, so there are footballs flying all over the field.

DRC was second in the league in allowing only a 44.1 percentage pass completion average in passes thrown into his area. He was rated the fifth-best cornerback in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.

In his final two years with Philadelphia, quarterbacks were completing close to 60 percent of their passes in his area. During his first five years in the league, DRC was second in passes defended with 83.

DRC credits his improvement to what he learned from the Broncos coaching staff and a renewed confidence.

"You lose games (in Philadelphia), and you are scared to make a mistake and all that is going through your head. This year, I just said I am going to play," DRC said.

DRC's value will be more needed in the Super Bowl with the expected return of the Seattle Seahawks' Percy Harvin. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Rodgers-Cromartie will also be seeing a lot of the Seahawks' deep-threat receiver Doug Baldwin.

This is Rodgers-Cromartie's second Super Bowl appearance in his six years in the NFL. He joins Henry Lawrence and Tyrone Williams as the only Manatee County players who have appeared in multiple Super Bowls.

They both have a Super Bowl ring (Lawrence has three), and DRC wants to get his first.

It's been quite a journey to the Mile High City.

After last season, DRC was a question mark. He was part of that broken-dream-team secondary in Philadelphia that included three All-Pro cornerbacks.

A lot of NFL scouts and general managers said they felt he lost his intensity and some desire.

Denver executive vice president John Elway took a different approach. He saw the talent and vowed to hold DRC accountable.

The 27-year-old liked Denver's approach.

"They told me my flaws. Nobody had done that, and it impressed me," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "They told me what I needed to do to get better instead of telling me what I could do."

With his speed, height and wingspan, DRC's pass skills always have been elite. But this year with Denver, he has displayed a toughness that has stood out.

DRC finished the season with a career-high 51 tackles, and his 42 solos were the second-highest of his career. He only had five missed tackles, which tied him for fifth among cornerbacks.

He is starting to remind people of his dad, Stan Cromartie, a standout basketball player at Southeast High and Manatee Community College.

"The toughest guy I ever coached. Nobody played harder," legendary MCC coach Harry Kinnan said about Stan.

DRC says he is taking to coaching better, and the Denver staff knows how to maximize his talent.

"I really bought into their system," he said.

At 35, veteran cornerback Champ Bailey will cost the Broncos about $10 million next season. Common sense says the Broncos should tie up DRC with a long-term deal based on his age and what he has shown this season.

If he can get a Super Bowl ring, it will enhance his chances.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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