Asomugha reports to Lehigh, excited to join Eagles


Asomugha reports to Lehigh, excited to join Eagles

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - He won 37 games in eight years with the Raiders. The Eagles won 85 during the same span.

He never reached the postseason while he was with the Raiders. The Eagles have made the playoffs nine of the last 11 years.

Hes always spent Sundays in January with the TV off. No football for him. No playoffs.

While his friends were off playing postseason football and trying to win a Super Bowl, he was trying to forget that he was an Oakland Raider.

It was depressing because theres one reason, one main reason, why youre playing, Nnamdi Asomugha said. You want to win. So when the playoffs would come around, I wouldnt watch. Maybe Id see some highlights here and there. But it was depressing as a player.

Asomugha, who on Friday signed a five-year, 60 million deal with the Eagles that includes 25 million in guaranteed components, joined the team Sunday morning at Lehigh University. Like Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and the Eagles other free agents, hes not allowed to practice until Thursday, but he can participate in meetings, film study and all other team activities.

The Raiders averaged 4.6 wins per year during Asomughas eight seasons in Oakland. In his three years at Cal, the Golden Bears went 11-23. His only winning season -- counting high school, college and the NFL -- was 2002, when Cal went 7-5. Even that team went 4-5 after a 3-0 start.

Its frustrating not to win, Asomugha said. The No. 1 goal when you come into this league is to win a championship. You want to win the Super Bowl. Thats the only reason you play. When youre not winning and not making it to the playoffs, that can be frustrating.

Thats why when free agency finally began, Asomugha began looking for a place to win more than a place that would offer the most money.

We heard the same thing from Jason Babin last week. He left money on the table to come here.

Players are signing with Philly because they feel the organization is committed to winning and -- with Michael Vick at quarterback -- has a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl.

Ive seen what the Eagles have done in the past, Asomugha said. The winning tradition that they have, and it excites me. Theyre winners.

Asomugha said the Eagles were his first choice all along during the summer. He said Vick began recruiting him at the Pro Bowl in February and said DeSean Jackson texted him constantly urging him to sign with the Eagles.

But the Eagles didnt even get involved in talks until the last minute. Everybody thought the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback was headed for the Jets or Cowboys.

Then, just before he had to make a decision, the Eagles swooped in.

The Eagles never really seemed to be in it, even for me, he said. You guys were surprised. Anybody that knows me knows that I like to take my time in making decisions, and Im on the phone and its like, Yes, No, What do you want to do, make a decision, Give me five minutes, We dont have five minutes, youve got to make a decision.

That decision shook the NFL to its foundation.

The Eagles? Really?

Everything came really quickly, Asomugha said. And when the Eagles expressed interest and came so aggressive and said, We have a chance, we want this, lets do it, it didnt have to go much further.

Everybody that was on my team knew my No. 1 team was the Eagles from March, when we were looking at teams. When the Eagles became a possibility we knew that was the match.

When a team wants you, you can feel it. and when you feel that match I dont think you can shy away from that.

Asomugha said a lot of the rumors that were reported before he signed were untrue.

He said he heard the reports that he would want something like 20 million a year but said none of that was ever true.

More than anything, he wants to win.

Regardless of money, regardless of location, regardless of the supposed things that I want to do after football, regardless of all that, we had to make a clear decision in what was best for us.

You heard the apocryphal stories about the things I was expecting as far as the numbers and things like that, so it was out there, but the thing I wanted most of all was to be in the right situation.

And that is Philadelphia, where hes now the centerpiece of an unusual three-pronged cornerback attack with Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Combined Pro Bowls: Eight.

Can three superstar cornerbacks play in the same secondary? Theres still a chance the Eagles will trade Samuel, but if not, can it work?

Oh, its very workable, he said. I mean, its the best situation, because you have obviously teams are passing a lot more and there are rules that are ... I dont want to say catered to the offense because I dont want to get fined or anything, but there are rules that allow the offense to be more explosive, so you want to have as many defensive players and defensive playmakers and defensive backs that you can.

If thats the case, its very workable and it could mean some very impressive things on our end.

E-mail Reuben Frank at Follow him on Twitter @RoobCSN.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats


Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals' lineup Tuesday night after being hit in the knee by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch on Memorial Day.

Big break for the Phils considering Harper has hit .346 against them with three doubles, 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 walks in his last 104 plate appearances against them.

It's an equally big break for Aaron Nola, against whom Harper is 6 for 10 with two homers (see game notes).

For the Phillies, Ryan Howard gets the start at first base against another right-hander, Washington's Joe Ross. Phillies fans are clamoring for more playing time for Tommy Joseph, but starting Howard against Ross does make some sense given how much better lefties have been against him (.295 BA) than righties (.209). Ross throws a ton of sinkers and sliders which make it tough on same-handed hitters.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Cameron Rupp, C
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. David Lough, RF
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

And for the Nationals:

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Clint Robinson, LF
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Espinosa, SS
9. Joe Ross, P

The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch


The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch

It's difficult to feel sorry for a professional athlete who will have earned nearly $200 million in salary before his playing career ends at 37 years old. It's hard, but Ryan Howard is doing an outstanding job of making me feel bad anyway.

The statistics speak for themselves. As the calendar rolls over to June, Howard is batting .157 with more than twice as many strikeouts (52) as base hits (22). Debate rages as to whether the Phillies should hang on to the three-time All-Star for locker-room morale -- perhaps also in the desperate hopes they can still trade him -- or if they should just put The Big Piece out of his misery with an outright release.

There's no satisfying answer here. All I can say is I wish for it to be over.

Howard's decline has been one of the saddest to watch in recent Philly sports memory. From 2005 through 2011, he was the heart of the Phillies' order, belting 284 home runs and driving in 859 runs in six-and-a-half seasons, during the most successful run in franchise history. In 2016, Howard's bat can barely catch up to the ball, let alone knock it out of the infield.

Largely through no fault of his own. Howard has never been the same since rupturing his Achilles on the final at bat of the 2011 season. Sure, there were signs he was slowing down or that the rest of the league was catching up to him even then, averaging 32 homers between the '10-'11 seasons compared to 49.5 over '06-'09 -- but he was still hitting the ball at that point.

Since the injury, Howard's power hasn't necessarily dipped dramatically. It's his ability to hit the ball, period. From '04 to '11, he was a .275 hitter. After the injury, he's batting .226. This season has been especially trying, with the month of May bordering on the historic.

Of course, it's not news Howard's career was derailed by injuries. It's no secret he's been particularly awful this season. It's just harder than ever to watch.

Just how ineffective has Howard been in 2016? In retrospect, maybe the numbers don't quite do the struggle justice. Obviously, he isn't hitting, and he's striking out as frequently as ever. What's new this year is the percentage of fly balls that don't even make it out of the infield -- 12 percent, which is twice as high as any season in 13 Major League seasons.

What does it mean exactly? Howard's swing is so jacked right now that even when he does make contact, even when he doesn't hit a ball into the defensive shift, one in 10 times is essentially a harmless pop-up.

To his credit, Howard also has eight home runs this season, some of which have been big at bats or game-winners. He's also been hailed as a positive influence and leader in the clubhouse, an example this young group of Phillies can certainly benefit from.

Nor do I believe Howard really needs anybody to feel bad for him. He's worked hard and accomplished more than most ever will at his profession, and as a result is able to provide for his family and generations beyond. He's built a great legacy both on the baseball diamond, but one that no doubt extends beyond athletic prowess.

Yet none of that changes the fact that Howard's play has deteriorated to the point where he's become a black hole in the Phillies' lineup. It pains me to say that, to use this platform to write it -- just not as much as it pains me to watch it happening.

I'd love nothing more than for Howard to go on a tear and end his final season with the Phillies with head held high. It's the ending a legend like him deserves. Or better yet, improve his production to a level where a contender in the American League would sign Howard and give him one last crack at postseason baseball.

But short of that, I'd love nothing more for it to all be over, to not have to watch one of the great Phillies sluggers flail away every other or third day, or less as it soon may come to. It's not a matter of debate as to when or how that should happen. The sooner, the better.

10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs


10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs

The Eagles wrapped up their Tuesday practice just before 12:30 p.m. under a hot summer-like sun.

Tuesday was the first day of four in the team’s final week of OTAs, which are voluntary. The mandatory minicamp starts next Tuesday and runs through next Thursday.

That’s when we might see Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles, both of whom have been staying away from the team during the voluntary period. And that’s where we’ll start with today’s 10 observations:

1. With Cox still out, Mike Martin was again working with the first team at defensive tackle next to Bennie Logan, as he was last week. Two weeks ago, Taylor Hart was next to Logan at tackle. Martin was a depth piece in Tennessee and that’s how he’ll fit with the Eagles once Cox comes back.

Martin was also involved in the first little scuffle we’ve seen during these spring practices. Nothing too exciting … just a little shoving with left guard Allen Barbre.

2. Sproles is still out, but Ryan Mathews returned. Mathews missed the last practice opened to the media with an illness but participated Tuesday. The interesting thing was that Mathews didn’t get all the first-team reps. In fact, Kenjon Barner actually opened the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of practice with the first team.

It’s early, but Barner has looked pretty good this spring. It’ll be interesting to see if he fits with the team. He’s ahead of rookie Wendell Smallwood now, but would the team really elect to keep him over a fifth-round pick? Or will the team be OK keeping four running backs again?

Another note: Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) is still out.

3. We saw a little trickery from Doug Pederson’s offense on Tuesday against no defense. First, Chase Daniel threw a lateral screen to Josh Huff, who threw down the right to Smallwood. Then, Carson Wentz threw a lateral pass to Nelson Agholor and then Wentz ran a route down the left sideline, but Agholor overthrew him.

Maybe the trick plays are just way to keep practice lighter, but it might also mean the offense is moving along nicely and installing more and more of the playbook. It’s a good sign.

4. Wentz was up and down on Tuesday, but his best completion came on a deep pass down the right sideline to wideout Xavier Rush (who is a candidate for best name on the team). Rush wrestled the ball away from corner C.J. Smith, who should know Wentz pretty well. The two played together at North Dakota State.

Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had a shaky day, throwing several balls that could have been picked off.

5. Again, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks — the two Jim Schwartz guys in the secondary — were working with the first team. On Tuesday, Eric Rowe was the extra corner on the field in the nickel. When Rowe came in, Brooks shifted into the slot. It still looks like Nolan Carroll isn’t yet allowed to practice during team portions.

On the first play of 11 on 11s, Brooks broke up a pass from Bradford that was then picked off by Rodney McLeod and taken the other way. Not a good throw from Bradford, but Brooks was aggressive and jumped it.

6. Down by the goal line during the team period, Malcolm Jenkins made a nice play to get in front of a pass, but couldn’t pick it off. He’s in midseason form. Jenkins had a great year in 2015, but really struggled to intercept balls that he had in his hands.

7. Jordan Hicks didn’t participate in 7 on 7s or 11 on 11s Tuesday. Two weeks ago, he sat out with tightness in his legs, but returned last week. On Tuesday, with Hicks watching, Najee Goode filled in at first-team MIKE, flanked by Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks.

8. Chase Daniel overthrew two balls badly within a few plays during the 11-on-11 drills, but then capped off a drive by dropping a ball into the hands of wideout Paul Turner in the back of the end zone. Decent day for Daniel.

9. The Eagles ran some scout team looks for the first time (that we’ve seen) on Tuesday. Daniel ran the scout team, which makes sense. Normally, it would be the third-string quarterback, but Wentz probably has plenty on his plate. Not sure whom the offense was mimicking, but the two pinnies were Nos. 88 and 82. Perhaps the Cowboys?

10. At one point on Tuesday, the offense started to use a tempo offense, giving everyone in attendance flashbacks to Chip. Well, not exactly. The up-tempo didn’t last long and it did produce the ugliest Wentz pass since he’s been with the team.

We are seeing plenty of interesting looks from the Eagles. At times they’ve been using formations with three tight ends. And they even showed some designed quarterback runs on Tuesday. The progression and complexity of this offense is starting to be revealed by these practices, and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Punter Donnie Jones has begun to wear a pretty sweet white and blue bucket hat at practice when he’s not wearing his helmet. Only a punter could get away with this. Here, you can see him in the background from last week.