Checking the Numbers: Is James Rogers Michigan's Best Cornerback in 2010?

Go ahead. Laugh. Tell me I'm nuts or that I'm smoking the sticky icky. I'm standing by the question. At the beginning of the year it was clear that James Rogers was going to be a bit of a weak link in the defensive secondary. I mean, how could he not be? The journeyman wide receiver turned corner turned receiver turned corner had seen perhaps half a dozen real plays over the course of his career at only position and was now being asked to be Michigan's No. 2 cornerback. Dire consequences were predicted and just about everyone.... no... strike that... everyone predicted that he'd be supplanted by Cullen Christian, Courtney Avery or Terrence Talbott by mid season.

Only he hasn't.

Rogers currently ranks 8th on the team with 29 tackles, 2nd in PBUs (though I think he's not gotten credit for several more), tied for first with two interceptions, and even has a TLF. More importantly, despite all of our predictions for the end of times, Rogers remains on the field and a steady contributor to an improving defense.

I've been thinking about this question for a while. Certainly Rogers has received over the top help and he's not going to play corner at the next level, but he's been solid. He's breaking up passes. He's making sure tackles. He's actually guiding his fellow backfield mates to the proper alignment. Rogers has been pretty good recently. And the Numbers bare this out. All we need to do is look at MGo's UFR for evidence of this in comparison to the rest of the team. (*Numbers through the Illinois game)

Team Rogers Floyd Avery Talbott Christian
Illinois 0 DNP 3 DNP DNP
Penn St. 0/DNP -9 DNP -6 -1
Iowa -5 -8.5 -5.5 +1 DNP
Michigan St. +2 -.5 0 -2 -3
Indiana -5.5 -4 -6 -4 DNP
BGSU -2 +3.5 DNP 0 DNP
UMass -3 -6 DNP DNP DNP
Notre Dame -2.5 +2.5 DNP DNP DNP
UConn +3.5 +4 DNP DNP DNP

When you add it up, Rogers -12.5 total on the season is a ways below J.T. Floyd's -18. Rogers has basically played 8 games in this model, so he's -12.5/8 for your +/- play to game ratio. Floyd is -18/8. Uhhh... yeah. not good either, but actually worse than Rogers. So, according to the numbers compiled by Brian on a weekly basis, Rogers > Floyd. If that don't beat all, eh?

Look, I'm not pretending that any of Michigan's cornerbacks at the moment are "good." They're, at best, mediocre trending to awful. But at least in some respects you're seeing some improvement out of Rogers and he's been playing pretty well. Rogers isn't getting beat deep, he's playing solidly within the confines of the zone defense and he's making the tackles we need him to make. And he's gone up against some decent receivers. He blanketted Michael Floyd, he held Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham in check, and he wasn't the one getting torched crispy by Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

So much of corner play is determined by the zone, over the top coverage, and whatever side the defense as a whole is shading the offense towards. I'm not pretending I've got all that information in front of me. But after watching Rogers in person and over the TV the last few games he hasn't been the guy in the secondary I've been worried about. His coverage has been pretty good and he's not giving up the big play (as much as the rest of the corners are). If Rogers was as big a liability as we thought he was going into the season, I don't think any team would've hesitated throwing the ball at him 10-20 times a game. They haven't. Yes, Michigan's in a zone, but it doesn't mean that Rogers doesn't have to be in position and make tackles. Since Indiana, I submit that he's actually been pretty good.

It's food for thought, but I'd like to get everyone's take on this proposition.

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