A New Mane Man Detroit's Charles Rogers lived up to his advance billing, scoring touchdowns on his first two catches and intimidating defenders

September 14, 2003

It didn't matter that Charles Rogers, the second pick in the 2003
draft, dropped the first pass thrown to him during the Detroit
Lions' 42-24 victory over the visiting Arizona Cardinals on
Sunday. Nor did it matter that he wasn't even the game's most
productive rookie wideout. (That was Cardinals second-rounder
Anquan Boldin: 10 catches, 217 yards, two touchdowns.) What did
matter were Rogers's two gravity-defying, first-half touchdown
catches, which raised the bar even higher for a guy from whom
much was already expected.

"Yeah, there are a lot of expectations on me," says Rogers, a
consensus All-America out of Michigan State. "I'm a hometown kid,
high draft pick, big contract. So people expect a lot. But they
should, right?"

The answer, of course, is yes, but for the Lions the more
pertinent concern is whether all the hoopla surrounding Rogers is
healthy. "The hype's not a good thing," says Lions second-year
quarterback Joey Harrington. "In no way am I saying that Charles
is any less of a player, but it isn't fair to him. I went through
it, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone." Harrington nearly buckled
under such burdens last year, when he became a starter in Week 3
and proceeded to throw 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while
completing just 50.1% of his passes.

Then again, he wasn't throwing to anyone like Rogers. "He's big
and incredibly fast--he's outrun my arm a couple of times,"
Harrington says. "I'll throw it and think I've got him beat. Then
he drops into another gear, and it's, God, I should've thrown
that a lot farther."

By the second quarter of Sunday's opener, the Cardinals were
already doubling the 6'3", 202-pound Rogers, who finished with
four receptions for 38 yards. "They were shading toward him. Even
if he's not catching the ball, he draws coverage," said
Harrington, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 195 yards and four
scores. Said Lions coach Steve Mariucci, "I'd double him, too, if
he scored a couple of touchdowns."

Lions coaches and teammates are most surprised by Rogers's
retention of the West Coast offensive sets, which were heaped
upon him during rookie minicamp in early May. "He came back to
training camp [in late July] and hadn't lost a bit," Mariucci
says. By the end of camp Rogers had become Detroit's featured
wideout. "We're utilizing him like we used Terrell Owens in San
Francisco," says Mariucci. "We're going to move him to the left
side, the right side, inside, outside and everywhere in between.
And for a young guy to be able to do that--well, it's
impressive."

After a Sept. 3 practice Rogers stayed for extra drills with
fellow wideout Shawn Jefferson. The two worked for 20 minutes on
one of Rogers's few weaknesses--getting his lanky frame into and
out of the breaks in his patterns. "Charlie wants to work. He's
willing to do what it takes. How can you not love that?" asks
Jefferson, a 13-year veteran. "He's still a rookie. And I still
approach him like he doesn't know a damn thing. But--and I hate
to say it--he's gonna be a great one."

--Josh Elliott

COLOR PHOTO: DANNY MOLOSHOK/GETTY IMAGES MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD If things go as planned, Rogers expects to be in the end zone a lot this season.

"He's willing to do what it takes. How can you not love that?"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)