Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knows how disappointed Eagles fans are in the way his season has gone.
And he doesnt blame them a bit.
Hes just as disappointed.
Expectations were huge when the Eagles acquired DRC and a 2012 second-round pick in the late July trade that sent Kevin Kolb to the Cards.
And understandably so. He was a Pro Bowl corner in Arizona just two years ago and had 13 picks in his first three NFL seasons, seventh-most of any active player. He also had four INT returns for touchdowns, tying the most ever by an NFL player in his first three seasons.
We thought we were getting a superstar. And maybe we did. But we havent had a chance to find out.
Because one day after the Eagles acquired DRC, they signed Nnamdi Asomugha, which moved Rodgers-Cromartie into the slot a position he never played before and at 6-foot-2, 180, is hardly suited for.
Going out and getting Rodgers-Cromartie and playing him in the slot is kind of like signing Cliff Lee and making him a seventh-inning specialist.
Doesnt make a lot of sense.
Hes tried to make the best of it, but playing the slot and playing outside cornerback are two entirely different positions. And Rodgers-Cromartie is soberly aware that the expectations he brought with him from Phoenix havent been met.
I think their expectations were based on knowing what I did in Arizona, so I can understand their expectations and why they were high, and I cant fault them for that, Rodgers-Cromartie said. All I can do is keep going out there, keep learning as much as I can at a new position and try to do better. Thats all I can do.
Its been a rough year all-around for Rodgers-Cromartie, who will return to action Sunday in Miami after missing three games with a high ankle sprain suffered in the loss to Arizona, his former team.
They were the first three games Rodgers-Cromartie has ever missed.
Never been injured before, never missed a game before, it was real hard, he said. Just sit back and watching, thats tough.
But not as tough as learning a new position on a team team without an off-season.
Rodgers-Cromartie is tall, skinny and fast exactly what an outside corner is supposed to be and the opposite of what an inside corner is supposed to be.
Weve all seen him struggle with his new position. His whiffed tackle on Earl Bennett in the loss to Chicago ranks up there with the Ronnie Brown fumble, the Chas Henry fake punt and the Jeremy Maclin dropped fourth-down pass as one of the symbols of futility in this 4-8 Eagles season.
He makes no excuses.
Its been frustrating basically playing a new, different position, but Im young, Ive got a lot of time to just learn, he said at his locker before practice Thursday. Slot is a difficult position to play if youve never done it before. I never really even paid attention to it because youre outside doing your thing.
Outside is a whole different ballgame. Thats really been the most difficult thing. Trying to make that your spot. I asked guys around the league how difficult playing the nickel is and they tell you but until you get out there, you dont realize how difficult it is and how different it is.
Once I get it, I got it. But theres a lot of new concepts. Gotta read run, gap responsibilities your mind has to work quickly. But with more experience, itll come. In the long run, itll make me a better corner. Ill have a better mindset or mentality of the game because playing inside, it makes you more versatile and makes you a better player.
The good news is that Rodgers-Cromartie hasnt allowed a touchdown this year. The bad news is that he doesnt have any interceptions and has missed his share of tackles.
Rodgers-Cromartie actually had his best game of the year against the Cards before he got hurt, knocking down two passes and recording the first sack in a year by an Eagles cornerback.
He was learning, and I think his last few downs were his best downs, head coach Andy Reid said. He was getting better every week. When you move a player thats been an outside player his whole career and then move them inside and ask them to play that nickel, its a different dynamic. But I thought each week he was getting better and more confident. Then in the Arizona game I thought he did some good things.
DRCs future here depends largely on what the Eagles do with Asante Samuel. If they do end up trading him this off-season, Rodgers-Cromartie can move back to his natural outside spot.
And who knows? If theres a new defensive coordinator next year, which would seem rather likely, he might have a completely different role in mind for the 25-year-old, who was originally the 16th pick in the 2008 draft.
Rodgers-Cromartie said that for now, nobodys said a word to him about moving back outside.
The way things are looking, theyre zoning in on the nickel thing, I think thats my thing for the time being, he said. Thats all they preach to me. They dont talk much about outside.
You see me switch out there every now and then, but thats just because Samuel and Asomugha are cool enough to let me get a little bit, mix it up a little bit, but thats about all I get out there. From the coaches, I never hear about it.
Third down, that slot guy, thats the guy they go to. Thats where I have to get better. Stopping the chains. Thats the hardest part. Im not there yet. Thats the biggest adjustment. Im used to worrying about the deep ball or something over my head. Now got the little short passes, guys breaking off their route in front of you thats the hardest part. Its so different. Its a different game.
A different game and a disappointing season.
The Eagles are in last place, headed nowhere, and Rodgers-Cromartie is a former Pro Bowl pick playing out of position on a team he didnt plan on being with.
It is hard, Rodgers-Cromartie said. You know what people are saying, but Ill say this I understand what the fans are saying, but they havent seen me and what kind of player I can be. In time. In time. Itll happen.
All I can do is keep working. Id love to be outside, thats where Ive always played, thats what Im used to, thats my natural position. But I have nothing to do with it. All I can do is keep playing. Thats all I can do.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com