[size=18]Talented Rouse again stuck in logjam at safety[/size]
By BOB McGINN
Denver - Barring an injury at safety, Aaron Rouse will have to be content with a second season playing special teams and little else for the Green Bay Packers.[img_r]http://graphics.jsonline.com/graphics/packer/img/news/aug08/aaron21.jpg[/img_r]
Despite having more reliable hands and better production as an interceptor than Nick Collins, itll be Rouse on the bench, Collins at free safety and Atari Bigby at strong safety in 2008, just as it was in 2007.
Kurt Schottenheimer, the clubs third-year secondary coach, said at midweek that the staff saw no reason to make a change.
Were very pleased with where Nick and Atari are, Schottenheimer said. Nick Collins, in particular, has been very, very good. But we recognize the fact that Aaron Rouse has the physical tools to be competitive against those guys.
Rouse knew the score from the beginning of camp when the Collins-Bigby tandem began receiving almost every snap with the No. 1 defense.
I havent had that many reps with the 1s, Rouse said. You know, fighting for a starting job, man, Ive been with the 2s.
Its not an easy thing to do, to kind of sit back and let somebody else be in the drivers seat. But as long as were heading in the right direction, then its OK. As far as being one of those players that causes turmoil or stirs up things, thats just not me. When they need me, Ill be there and will make the most of it.
Coach Mike McCarthy offered the best explanation for the decision, saying Wednesday, Aaron, his consistency level early in camp wasnt where it needed to be. I think hes definitely picked it up probably the last week to 10 days.
There has been a fascination with Rouse since the Packers drafted him in the third round a year ago. Standing 6 feet 4 inches, weighing 225 pounds and able to run 40 yards in 4.57 seconds, Rouse would be the model for an artist looking to draw the prototypical safety.
In the last 20 years, only three other drafted safeties stood 6-4 or taller. They were Steve Hawkins (6-5, 210), sixth round by New England in 1994; Scott Shields (6-4, 232), second round by Pittsburgh in 99; and Pat Watkins (6-4, 209), fifth round by Dallas in 06.
Hawkins lasted one season. Shields started one game in four years. And Watkins remains a backup in Dallas.
Two big safeties, Seattles Ken Easley (6-3, 206) and Denvers Steve Atwater (6-3, 212), had fabulous careers. David Fulcher (6-3, 228) made the Pro Bowl three times for Cincinnati.
Fulcher, who lacked speed to cover, might not have been able to survive today given the proliferation of spread offenses. Rouse, however, is far from a liability in either man-to-man or zone coverage. The Packers like his length matching up against tight ends.
If Rouse does have shortcomings, they would be open-field tackling and running a secondary.
In San Francisco, Rouse walked up to a position directly on the line of scrimmage and made three solid tackles. Rouse has more than enough upper-body strength but, since hes cut so high, the coaches would like him to develop a stronger base.
When Rouse isnt in the box, the angles that he takes to the player with the ball need improvement. Collins (5-11) and Bigby (5-10) are regarded as more dependable open-field tacklers.
Wide receiver Jason Hill gained 14 yards on a reverse Saturday night when five Packers missed the tackle. Rouse, the third of the five, had Hill dead against the sideline but missed.
Hell, hes got to go in there and blow his (expletive) up, Schottenheimer said. You got leverage, position, people all around to help. But he got a little lazy in his technique. He got a little straight-legged and he got high and the guy cut back on him.
The Packers dont have one of those cerebral-type safeties such as Eugene Robinson to direct traffic. But Collins is capable of making more checks than Bigby or Rouse, who allowed that becoming even more fluent in the defense is his primary focus.
Against the 49ers, Schottenheimer said Rouse made a few errors in adjustments that the coaches didnt expect to happen.
He is trying to make plays, Schottenheimer said. Theres times when theres an opportunity for you to go make a play and theres other times where your responsibility may have to take precedent over those kinds of things. Weve got to make sure we defend our area. Im not saying Aarons been out of place on some of the turnovers hes made.
Forcing turnovers is the pre-eminent objective of every defense, however, and again this summer Rouse has been a ball magnet.
He has a team-high seven interceptions in camp, one more than Charles Woodson, besides getting one of the Packers two in the exhibition season on a sensational play against Cincinnati. Last year, he had two interceptions in 326 snaps, compared with none for Collins in 724 and five for Bigby in 998.
I feel like Im a big-time playmaker, said Rouse, who had a modest five interceptions in 52 games at Virginia Tech. Ive made a lot of plays out there that basically proved my case. Im the type of player thats going to change the game around.
What has held Rouse back most this summer, according to Schottenheimer, is missing four practices Aug. 6-8 with a hip injury. Collins and Bigby havent missed any time.
Yeah, I think the guys that are there, Collins and Bigby, are our guys, Woodson said. One thing about him (Rouse) he has pretty good instincts. Theres some different things he has to work on as far as recognizing the whole game and not getting focused on one thing.
Woodson added that there aint no doubt Rouse would one day be a starter.
Yet, Rouse knows that Collins, 25, is only five months older than him, and that Bigby is just 26. Collins and Bigby have positioned themselves for long-term contracts and Rouse, who wont become an unrestricted free agent until March 2011, acknowledges wondering if he has a future in Green Bay.
I want to be a Green Bay Packer, Rouse said. I want to be around for a very long time. But all I can do is control my play and hope my skills are getting noticed out there.
The more I see this kid and hear his stuff, the more I like him.