A Pro Bowler with the Arizona Cardinals, Rodgers-Cromartie teamed with two other Pro Bowlers in the Eagles' secondary and was forced to play in the slot or in a complementary role.
On Sunday, Rodgers-Cromartie makes his first trip back to Arizona, facing the quarterback for whom he was traded, Kevin Kolb. He's now a central part of the Eagles' defense, playing in his natural spot - on the outside - and fulfilling the promise he showed when he averaged more than four interceptions during his first three seasons with the Cardinals. Already with two interceptions in 2012, Rodgers-Cromartie said he's a better player now than when he made the trip to Hawaii after the 2009 season.
"I'm a little more disciplined now," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I understand the game just a little bit better, just as far as how teams line up. I understand my weaknesses and my strengths. I'm just a better player, mentally."
Rodgers-Cromartie's two interceptions came in the season opener against Cleveland. His receivers have been targeted 12 times this year and caught just three passes, according to Pro Football Focus. On Sunday, Rodgers-Cromartie might see time covering former teammate Larry Fitzgerald, an assignment that would be Rodgers-Cromartie's toughest yet this season.
The Eagles could rotate Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha on Fitzgerald. Last year, the starting cornerbacks were assigned to a side. This season, the Eagles adjust based on matchup. Rodgers-Cromartie, who is known for his speed, lined up last week against Baltimore's Torrey Smith.
"He likes to challenge receivers, and he's getting to do that on the outside," defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. "He understands our concepts. He understands the coverages. He understands what we're trying to do with the coverages. He understands the leverage."
Rodgers-Cromartie has also found comfort within the Eagles' locker room after three years as a core player in Arizona. He was part of a secondary that included Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle, and together they helped the Cardinals to two NFC West championships and a Super Bowl appearance.
As a first-round pick who achieved instant success, Rodgers-Cromartie figured he'd spend a long part of his career in Arizona. There was initial shock when the trade happened last season, but he quickly adjusted his mind-set to Philadelphia.
"I understand it's a business and things happen," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It really hit me the first week, but not once I got here and got around the guys and they accepted me."
Asked who received the better end of the deal for Kolb, Rodgers-Cromartie could only smile. That seemed to be an answer itself.
But he did not the entertain the idea that this game has any added meaning because of his return to Arizona, and he expressed appreciation that the Cardinals drafted him more than bitterness that they traded him. He also played against the Cardinals last season in Philadelphia, so this weekend will be his second game against his former employer.
When they played last November, though, Rodgers-Cromartie was not playing at the level he is this season. So he can finally show the Cardinals the product that they traded away.
"He can be a Hall of Famer. I tell him that every day," Eagles cornerback Brandon Hughes said of Rodgers-Cromartie. "You don't get too many guys that can cut, break, quick as a cat, with ball skills. He can press you, he can play off. . . . He really doesn't lack a skill that you need to be successful at corner."
If Rodgers-Cromartie plays this way throughout the season, he'll drive up his price tag. A 26-year-old with his skill-set and production requires a big contract. Rodgers-Cromartie enjoys Philadelphia, and the Eagles like having him in their defense. Plus, the midnight green Mohawk would make little sense if he wasn't on the Eagles - and would be hard to pull off if it didn't fit in with the rest of his personality.
"I guess his style complements his personality," Hughes said. "Dominique is Dominique, and there's only one Dominique."
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.