When Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie makes the big trip back to face his old team, the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, he will be taking a 2-0 record with him. In fact, the Cardinals are also undefeated after two games.
The Eagles are coming off an exciting 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The Cardinals upset the New England Patriots, 20-18, in Foxborough, Mass.
This game also has an interesting twist. In 2011, Rodgers-Cromartie was traded to the Eagles along with a second round pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who may start again for the Cardinals if opening day starter John Skelton is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against the Seattle Seahawks in week one.
Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t get a chance to show much last year. He had 36 total and 27 solo tackles and no interceptions. He spent a good portion of the season playing inside as part of the Eagles’ nickel page, mostly due to the outside presence of since traded cornerback Asante Samuel. But Rodgers-Cromartie is playing some great football right now and already has two interceptions and two solo tackles this season.
“I feel real good especially to be 2-0 and get them in front of your home crowd,” Rodgers-Cromartie said of the Eagles win against the Ravens. “You got to love it. I just look to build from there. I would just say as a team and as a unit we put the time in and they finally allowed me to go back to where I was. They got me feeling comfortable and allowing me to play fast.”
Rodgers-Cromartie, a 6-foot-2, 182-pounder, has certainly been one of the Eagles biggest bright spots on defense, but he’s not the only standout. DeMeco Ryans, Eagles middle linebacker, has been a real defensive stalwart.
“DeMeco is a great man,” he said. “You can see that in stopping the run and playing the pass. He got an interception. He’s a dominating linebacker. Then, you got Nnamdi (Asomugha) coming over. You’re not going to take balls his way. He can take down a whole side of the field. Our defensive line is fierce. They’re fast off the ball. The quarterback knows if he holds the ball too long he’s going to be sacked. Then, we got Brandon Boykin (rookie) coming in making plays. I think that’s big for him as a rookie coming in and taking over for (Joselio) Hanson and doing a good job.”
Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the best young cornerbacks in the league. In 2009, he was named to the Pro Bowl after hauling in six interceptions and forcing three fumbles that year. He played a big role in the Cardinals’ success. He helped Arizona to a 32-25 win over the Eagles in the NFC championship game that season. In addition, he played in Super Bowl XLIII, losing a close one to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-23. He’s looking forward to returning to Arizona and competing against his former team.
“It’s going to be good just to see some old friends and some of the guys,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to get back out there. But I have to understand I’m going out there to play a ball game. I can’t get too caught up into it.”
Rodgers-Cromartie was a terrific player at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, Fla. He was an all-area selection as a defensive back and wide receiver.
He played his college football at Tennessee State where he was one of the top players in the country. The former Ohio Valley Conference star was the 16th player selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft. Rodgers-Cromartie was the first Tennessee State player chosen in the first round in since 1974 when defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Dallas Cowboys, first overall) and linebacker Wayman Bryant (Chicago Bears, fourth overall) were selected.
So far, it’s been a big year for Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles and Tennessee State. He’s been keeping up with the Tigers.
“Big Blue is off to a 3-0 start right now,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “We beat Jackson State, FAMU (Florida A&M) and Austin Peay. I’m very proud of them. Rod Reed (Tennessee State head coach) has the program turned around. They’re doing real good. So, shout out to Big Blue.”