Asomugha set to begin new chapter with Birds


Asomugha set to begin new chapter with Birds

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.

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Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox


Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

TORONTO -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays' repeated comeback efforts on Saturday were starting to look like they might come up agonizingly short.

But with Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Devon Travis all facing consecutive two-strike counts against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, an unlikely thing happened.

They all cashed in, and the Blue Jays walked off with a 10-9 victory, their fourth straight against Boston and their third walk-off win of the year.

"With the potency in our lineup, I feel like no lead is really big enough," said Martin, who went 3-for-5 and hit his third home run in four days in the sixth inning. "We can always find a way to get runners on and also if the other team makes a mistake, capitalizing on those mistakes. I think that was the key for us today. I think there was a couple miscues on defense for them and we were able to take advantage of that."

Martin kick-started the rally in the eighth that led Toronto back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 8. But he really got things going in the ninth, with Ezequiel Carrera on as a pinch-runner for Smoak, doubling a fastball into left field to tie the game at 9 (see full recap).

Royals score 7 in 9th to beat White Sox; Perez hurt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brett Eibner wondered whether anything could surpass the Kansas City Royals' rally Friday night, when they overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut.

He did not have to wait long to find out.

Eibner singled to cap the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Royals history, a seven-run rally off David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle that lifted the World Series champions over the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Saturday.

"I didn't think I could beat yesterday and, sure enough, we come around and do this," said Eibner, who also doubled to helped spark the inning. "It's super fun. There's nothing like it. I don't think I've ever experienced that."

Kansas City's Salvador Perez was injured in the ninth when third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slid with a forearm and elbow into the left thigh of the All-Star catcher, who called off Chien-Ming Wang (3-0), settled under Adam Eaton's foul popup about 30 feet from the plate near the third-base line and snagged the ball just before he was hit.

Perez was taken for a MRI after the game and the extent of his injury was not announced. The preliminary diagnosis was a bruised left thigh (see full recap).

Braves beat Marlins to lock up first home series win
ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker says Gordon Beckham is "bouncing around like he's a teenager."

That makes sense, because the return to his childhood hometown has helped Beckham add new life to his career.

Beckham hit a three-run homer, Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 7-2 on Saturday to secure their first home series win of the season.

Beckham, 29, an Atlanta native and former University of Georgia standout, spent most of his first seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox before signing with the Braves as a free agent. He is hitting .317 while earning more starts at third base and second base than was expected at the start of the season.

"I feel good," Beckham said. "I enjoy putting on this uniform every day. It's a lot of fun for me, being from Atlanta."

The Braves improved to a still-dismal 4-20 at Turner Field by winning the first two games of the three-game series. Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight day (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best


Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.