Didinger: Eagles cornerback prospects

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Didinger: Eagles cornerback prospects

For now, lets assume the suits the NFL owners, lawyers and union reps take care of business and settle on a new collective bargaining agreement in the next few days. Lets assume were finally able to put the litigation and mediation behind us.

Were able to talk football again isnt that refreshing? and focus our attention on what is sure to be a frenzied free-agent market. The Eagles' biggest need is a quality veteran to play right cornerback. At the moment they have, well, no one.

So lets take a look at the top five cornerback prospects and gauge the likelihood they could be coming to the Eagles.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

This is the name Eagles fans have heard discussed and mispronounced for months. He is No. 1 on their wish list for good reason. Next to Darrelle Revis (Jets) he is probably the best all-around cornerback in football. He is 6-2, 210 pounds and a three-time Pro Bowler.

But, folks, here is the bad news: I dont think Asomugha will be signing with the Eagles.

Because he is so talented you could argue he is the best free agent available, regardless of position he will be in great demand. That means his price tag will be enormous and it isnt the Eagles' style to break the bank for veterans in their 30s. (Asomugha turned 30 on July 6).

To sign Asomugha, the Eagles would have to spend most of the money they will have available under the new salary cap and it would limit their ability to fill other needs. So my guess is the Eagles will look at Asomugha, sigh wistfully and move on to other less pricey options.

The Houston Texans are hot for Asomugha if you saw their pass defense last season, you know why but the Dallas Cowboys are also very interested and they might have an advantage with Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator. He was Asomughas coach in Oakland.

Johnathan Joseph, Cincinnati Bengals

Fans dont know him as well as Asomugha or Ike Taylor, but Joseph belongs in the discussion. It is not his fault he spent five seasons in Cincinnati where players have to change their names (Chad Ocho-whatever) to get noticed.

Joseph (5-11, 195) is the fastest of the cornerbacks on this list he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds and he is physical. He is a solid tackler, willing to come up and force the run. At 27, he is in his prime.

He was better in 2009 than he was last season, but the Bengals had no pass rush (27th in the league) and their safeties were lousy so Joseph and fellow cornerback Leon Hall were hung out to dry. Joseph is a very talented athlete who should flourish with a new team.

The last time the Eagles signed a free agent from Cincinnati it was Stacy Andrews and it proved to be a huge mistake. Rather than improve, Andrews brought all of his bad habits with him. The memory still sends a shudder through the Eagles' front office, but it should not discourage them from pursuing Joseph. He is a much better athlete and competitor.

The thing I like about Joseph is he has shown the ability to play both man coverage and zone. He is comfortable in every system. Even Asomugha as great as he is is a press cover corner, a straight up man defender, which means he would have to adjust his game playing opposite Asante Samuel, who plays the ball.

Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers

At 31, he is the oldest player in the group, but he is also the most physical. He is 6-2 and 195 pounds and he is a very good tackler. He fits the Steeler mold he likes to hit and thats something the Eagles have to establish in rebuilding their defense.

A secondary that once intimidated receivers with the likes of Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown and Troy Vincent has lost its edge. The only way to recapture it is to bring in a nasty player or two. Taylor fits the description and in that respect, he might be the best compliment to Samuel because, lets face it, it helps to have at least one cornerback who is willing to tackle.

The secondary was the Steelers' biggest weakness last season and it cost them in the Super Bowl but Taylor wasnt the problem. He was the only consistent player in the mix. Bryant McFadden and William Gay could not hold up one-on-one and even Troy Polamalu, who was slowed by injuries, was picked on and beaten. Taylor was fine.

He is not as quick as he once was, but he is fast enough. After nine seasons, he knows how to position himself and use his height to neutralize faster receivers. Hell never be accused of having great hands he probably drops more potential interceptions than any DB in the league but the bottom line is he does break up the play.

The Eagles may waffle over Taylors age, but given the short amount of time they have to get ready for the season, a veteran is probably better equipped to step right in and play. Also, Taylor has a ton of postseason experience (including three Super Bowls), which is a plus for a team with postseason ambitions of its own.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona Cardinals

This is a different case because Rodgers-Cromartie is not a free agent. The Eagles would have to trade for him, but if they do intend to ship quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona, it is not out of the question that Rodgers-Cromartie could be coming here.

Would it be a fair exchange? It would depend on which Rodgers-Cromartie shows up. If it is the one who intercepted six passes two years ago and looked like one of the best young players in the game, yeah, it is a great trade for the Eagles. If it is the guy who spent last season getting spun around by run-of-the-mill receivers, then its not a great trade.

Andy Reid and Howie Roseman have to do their homework on this one. They have to decide which DRC is the real thing.

If they conclude Rodgers-Cromartie is a big-time talent who simply was dragged down by a bad situation last year and that a change of scenery is all he needs to get back on track, then a Kolb-for-DRC swap would be very tempting. It would work for the Cardinals, too, since they just drafted a blue-chip cornerback in Patrick Peterson of LSU.

On the plus side, Rodgers-Cromartie is only 25. He has size (6-2, 190), long arms and tremendous leaping ability. He is a superb athlete who was in the Pro Bowl just two years ago. The tools are still there.

On the negative side, what do you make of last season when he appeared to play in a daze and, oh yes, even on a good day, he doesnt like to tackle.
Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

Cromartie is hot and cold. He had 10 interceptions with San Diego in 2007, but his play tailed off so sharply that just two years later the Chargers traded him to the New York Jets for a third-round pick.

Cromartie is coming off a so-so year. He made some big plays as a corner who loves to gamble, he will always make some big plays but he also made enough mistakes and committed enough dumb penalties to frustrate Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Then there is the off-the-field stuff. Cromartie has fathered seven children with six women living in five states. He was labeled a deadbeat dad after missing support payments. The Jets knew all that and still traded for him. (My guess is they will re-sign him because last years top draft pick, Kyle Wilson, did not show any signs of being ready to play cornerback at this level.)

If Cromartie does hit the free-agent market, here is the scouting report: he has good size (6-2, 210) but his speed is only average (4.52 in the 40). He is a long strider, which causes problems when he covers smaller, quicker receivers. He is better covering down the field.

He isnt fond of tackling either. In a playoff game against the Jets, he let Shonn Greene run right past him and a play that should have gained three or four yards instead went for a 53-yard touchdown. That whiff probably sealed his fate with the Chargers, but he is just 27 years old with a reputation as a playmaker so he wont have any trouble finding a job.

The free-agent market will open in a matter of days. Andy, times yours.
E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20 year olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

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Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

So much for trimming Ryan Howard's playing time.

One day after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he plans on giving 24-year-old Tommy Joseph more starts against right-handed pitchers, Mackanin flipped the switch Monday.

Howard is penciled in as the starting first baseman for the Phils' series-opener against the Nationals on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park against Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71).

After the Phillies were clobbered by the MLB-best Chicago Cubs on Sunday — and the weekend, really — Mackanin said the Phils have to get a longer look at Joseph.

"We brought up Joseph up here for a reason, to get a look at him," the manager said after the Phillies' 7-2 on Sunday afternoon (see story). "I can't let him stagnate on the bench like (Darin) Ruf ended up doing, so he's going to face some right-handed pitchers to keep his timing."

Joseph will have to wait another day to get in the lineup. To be fair, Joseph did face five righties last week, but three of those came with the designated hitter in play.

For Howard, however, the club icon is in a major rut that has had many outsiders calling for him to retire or for the team to release him. He's hitting .154 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs in 136 at-bats and is 6 for 62 (.097) with 25 strikeouts in May.

Here's the silver lining, however. Howard is a career .333 hitter in 12 at-bats against Roark, who he's taken deep once and has six RBIs against.

The Phillies turn to Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97) to snap their three-game skid. He's faced the Nationals twice this season, allowing six — five earned — runs over 10⅓ innings.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Jeremy Hellickson, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

For more on tonight's game, check out Steven Tyding's game notes.