Phase II of Nnamdi Asomughas NFL career begins Sunday.
Phase I? Asomugha spent his first eight seasons in Oakland. During those eight years, the Raiders never reached the playoffs, never had a winning record, went through five head coaches and four defensive coordinators and averaged 4.6 wins per year.
Phase II takes place 2,507 miles to the east with a team thats been to the playoffs nine of the last 11 years, has had just one losing season since 2000 and has averaged 11 12 wins over the past decade.
Asomugha, the centerpiece of the Eagles frenetic off-season buying spree, will make his debut with his new team Sunday, when the Eagles face the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Asomugha, the Raiders first-round pick back in 2003, was a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback and a four-time All-Pro with the Raiders.
After practice Thursday, with the opener just three days away, Asomugha spent a few minutes at his locker talking about his role on the Eagles defense, expectations in Philly and several other topics.
Q: What have you discovered about Juan Castillos defensive system?
Asomugha: He just likes to be multiple. He likes multiple coverages and different looks and different things like that. I think thats a benefit for myself and all the other players because it keeps the quarterback on his heels, not knowing what to expect. Thats one thing Ive gotten from his system. Its pretty good how he changes plays and lets us kind of do what we do best instead of trying to critique it and make it his way. He just wants the guys to do what they do best.
Q: How will that influence your game?
Asomugha: Itll influence it in a positive way, my game and anybody elses, just because its not one look. Youre doing so many different things. Youre keeping the offense guessing about what youre doing. It makes things great for the defense once you get it down.
Q: So many new players on defense. Where is the defense at with all the new pieces?
Asomugha: I think were there. Obviously, as each game goes you get better and better individually and as a team, but I think were ready for the opener and ready to kind of start that momentum going as far as the season as far as how great the defense can be.
Q: How long does that process take with so many new players, coaches, schemes and systems?
Asomugha: I think its a process regardless of where you are because there is going to be some newness to it, and we have a few new players on defense and a new coach, so obviously its not going to be the same in Week 10 as it is in Week 1. But I think where we are right now is good enough to go out and dominate.
Q: Will you be a different type of player in this scheme than you were in Oakland?
Asomugha: Yeah, absolutely. It all depends on how Juan calls the game, but as far as the plays that we have, itll enhance everybodys skills as far as what people notice. Because a lot of times youre not able to do certain things because youre in a system thats not as multiple as this one. Obviously, its going to take advantage of our skills.
Q: Was it boring not getting throws your way in Oakland?
Asomugha: Absolutely, you want to be more involved in the game. Ill be able to do some things here that I havent done before and just play within the defense and not get outside of that and try to do my own thing.
Q: Hows it coming together with Asante and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie?
Asomugha: Its good. We get along well off the field and that always helps on the field, and Juan obviously has been able to put in things where were all comfortable and not doing too many things outside of what weve done for our entire careers, so theres a lot of movement with me and Dominique right now as far as matchups and trying to take advantage of our skills, and obviously Asantes been doing what hes been doing on that left side, and hell pretty much remain there, but there are a lot of moving parts around this defense.
Q: What do you expect from the Rams Sunday?
Asomugha: Its a talented bunch, and (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) does a great job with his offenses as long as Ive played against him, when he was in Denver and New England. I know hes multiple and he likes to get the ball out there and he likes to throw the ball, and they have the talent to do that from (their) quarterback, receivers and tight ends, good at passing and catching, and obviously Steven Jacksons a great player.
Q: Does this year feel different than your years in Oakland because of the enormous expectations?
Asomugha: It does, because theres a national spotlight on it. I think thats the big difference. Weve gone into the season thinking this could be our year, but it was really just us thinking it. Now, you come here and everybodys thinking it. Expectations are high, but its a good feeling and you know that a lot of teams really want to go after you and really want to beat you, so you obviously have to bring your best each game.
Q: How confident are you in the ability of this defensive front to generate pressure so you guys dont have to blitz that much?
Asomugha: We have some things that we can do blitz-wise, but we know what the front four can do, weve seen them in practice and in some preseason games and thats been just a little bit but weve seen that they can be dominant. Really, if we want to blitz, I think we can do that well, and if we dont, I think our front four is good enough to get there.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org