It’s no secret 2017 has been a rough year for Eli Rogers. Getting benched, his role in the offense taken over by JuJu Smith-Schuster, you know the story. Though his future and role with the team remains murky, he did end the season with a bang. Couple of big plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars. We’ll look at three of them today.
First one, early in the game. Nice job here to stem his route to the outside to get around the linebacker, get back on track on the dig over the middle and make a tough, falling catch over the middle. We’ve seen him struggle to make those contested catches in traffic over the middle of the field. This is a good rep. Like how he shielded his body in case of a big hit, too, just like Antonio Brown does.
Next one. Rogers aligned in the slot. Running a deep curl route. As the play begins to extend, Rogers shows his football IQ. He’s behind and between both linebackers. If he just sits there, Roethlisberger can’t make the throw. That’s an easy interception.
Instead, he rallies back to the ball, gets under the linebackers, and makes the catch. Gave Roethlisberger an option, just as a good slot receiver does. Makes the play.
Last one. Mesh route with Rogers and Antonio Brown running crossers. Rogers knows his man vs zone rules. Run away vs man, sit vs zone. Breaks down where you’re supposed to decide, over center, gets square to the ball, and then begins to move to his left as Roethlisberger slides to his right. Stays in line with his QB’s vision and is now making the catch on the move as opposed to a stationary target.
Again, giving Roethlisberger an option as the play begins to breakdown and helps avoid the sack.
Rogers is definitely a frustrating guy. We’ve seen good out of him in pockets. The team has talked up his route running and I think that’s partially why he played so much against Jacksonville, a team expected to play a good dose of man coverage.
When he puts it all together, to lean on the cliche, he looks good. I think his lack of size, catch radius, and struggles making difficult catches in traffic makes him a tough fit in the slot, especially compared to Smith-Schuster, but assuming he is brought back on a tender, he’ll round out the depth chart and offer some security at the bottom of the receivers room.