Can Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie revive his career after a disappointing stint in Philly? (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
Each Friday this offseason, Audibles will pit two players head-to-head in an attempt to figure out which one will have a better 2013 season. We’ll then take it to Twitter, to get your opinions on the debate. Find our previous Toss-Ups here.
After spending two weeks focused on offense (Randall Cobb vs. Percy Harvin and Sam Bradford vs. Andrew Luck), we turn our attention to the other side of the football. This Friday's Toss-Up pits new Denver cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie against one of the players who will help replace him in Philadelphia, ex-Raven Cary Williams.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: There was a time, really not all that long ago, when Rodgers-Cromartie was considered one of the brightest young defensive talents in the league. After being selected No. 16 overall in the 2008 draft, Rodgers-Cromartie picked off four passes in his rookie season and helped the Cardinals make a surprising Super Bowl run. He followed that up with a six-interception year that earned him a Pro Bowl nod.
It's been mostly downhill since then. DRC struggled badly in 2010, was traded from Arizona to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb deal before 2011, then slumped through two more years with the Eagles.
He's been given new life for 2013, having signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Denver Broncos. There, he'll plug into the starting lineup alongside veteran Champ Bailey, on a team with title aspirations. Denver coach John Fox recently said that he still believes Rodgers-Cromartie has No. 1 CB ability. At the very least, he's a step up from Tony Carter.
This has all the makings of a bounce-back year for Rodgers-Cromartie. He's landed in a very solid situation in Denver -- Bailey often will match up with the opponent's No. 1 receiver, while Chris Harris roams the slot -- and at 27 years old, will be playing for a big contract in 2014.
Cary Williams: Chip Kelly's remake of the Eagles roster included an aggressive turnover of the team's secondary. The addition of Williams on a three-year, $17 million deal was one of the linchpins of that effort.
The 28-year-old Williams is coming off a 2012 season in which he picked off four passes in the regular season and another two in the playoffs, as the Ravens rolled to a Super Bowl crown. It also marked the second straight year that Williams started every game for Baltimore -- impressive for a player the Ravens plucked off Tennessee's practice squad in 2009, after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2008.
Lardarius Webb's ACL tear in Week 6 last season cranked up the pressure on Williams. The extra pressure on Williams produced some uneven results: He finished the year (playoffs included) with 16 pass break-ups but also allowed seven touchdowns and a QB rating of 89.1 on passes his direction, per Pro Football Focus.
Williams did, however, crank up his game in the playoffs, turning in interceptions against both the Colts and Patriots (before a shaky Super Bowl against San Francisco). Philadelphia's counting on him to play like that more often, as Williams will enter the year as the team's No. 1 cornerback.
Can he deliver on a consistent basis?
Rodgers-Cromartie. That's a pick with an asterisk, because most of this comes down to the level of effort Denver receives from its new cornerback.
When he's mentally engaged and on his game, Rodgers-Cromartie remains one of the more talented cornerbacks in the league. He set a still-reachable bar for himself back in the 2008 and '09 seasons. There is Pro Bowl potential here, on paper, and Rodgers-Cromartie has every reason (including financial ones) to fire off a standout performance in 2013.
Williams, meanwhile, still has room to grow -- remember, this will be just his third season as a starter in this league. But it would be unrealistic for the Eagles to expect anything more than Baltimore received last year. Williams did lift his INT total from zero in 2011 to four in '12, and he may raise that number again this season. But he's also jumping into a division that's fairly receiver-heavy, especially when it comes to Dallas and the Giants.
The expectations for Williams should be about in line with what he showed in 2012. While Philadelphia may be satisfied with that, Rodgers-Cromartie can top it ... if he rediscovers his mojo.
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