Nnamdi promises better days are ahead


Nnamdi promises better days are ahead

OK, stop it already. Its not like Nnamdi is Izel Jenkins.

Has he been the most dominating cornerback in the NFL his first few weeks with the Eagles? Not really. Did he have a rough game against the Giants? No question. Has he paid dividends on the 60 million contract? Not yet.

Still, some of the criticisms of Nnamdi Asomugha that have been floating around the past week are over the top.

Three games into a five-year contract? Just a little bit early to call him a free agent bust.

Its not my first rodeo, lets say, Asomugha said at his locker Friday. Ive had enough years in it to know that you have ups and downs in games and certain times you make it, certain times you dont, but you have more ups than you do downs. Its just the position we play, your downs are always going to be magnified.

Asomugha had a role in two Eli Manning touchdown passes to unheralded Victor Cruz Sunday in the Giants 29-16 win at the Linc. He had a shot to tackle Cruz early on his 74-yard TD in the first quarter, but the blame really belonged to safety Kurt Coleman. But on Cruzs fourth-quarter TD, the game-winner, he just had poor position along the goal-line, along with safety Jarrad Page.

Certainly expectations were extraordinarily high when the Eagles made Asomugha the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.

All in due time, the former Raider said.

Everything gets better the more you do it, he said. Obviously, you want it to be perfect the first time that you do it, but unfortunately, thats not how it goes. I think as we go along things will get better for us individually and for us as a defense as a whole.

Theres been a groundswell of opinion among some fans and some NFL analysts that Asomugha is miscast in the Eagles defense, which demands that cornerbacks play a mixture of zone and man.

Im glad I dont watch, he said with a laugh. Ill tell you that much.

During his eight years in Oakland, Asomugha played almost exclusively man-to-man. This is his first foray into a combo defense where hes asked to play an assortment of coverages and in various positions.

It was a lot of man in Oakland, he said. We played zone at times but there would be games when youd go the entire game and your job was just to shut down the guy that was in front of you.

Our zones here arent necessarily your traditional zones. ... There are a lot of matching-up aspects to the zone. Its not as easy as just going to play Cover 2. Its different.

So how does Asomugha fit into Juan Castillos defense which is essentially Jim Johnsons defense with the linemen lining up a bit differently?

Is he really not suited to play zone?

He just laughs.

Its all football, he said. My first interception this year was in a zone. I dont know. Its just funny. One catch is given up in a zone and now all of a sudden you shouldnt be playing a zone, you should be playing man. So, you know, its football and, like I said, well continue to get better at it. I know what I can do.

And hes doing a lot more here than in Oakland. The Eagles thinking is that once Asomugha masters the defense, hell be an even more effective player than he was with the Raiders.

Here, youre learning new things because theyre putting you in different situations, different spots, he said. Ive played the slot this year, Ive played on tight ends, Ive played free safety, Ive played corner. Its a lot more than just going out there and playing man.

Asomugha recorded his first interception as an Eagle against the Falcons. But it was kind of lost in the flurry of Matt Ryans four-touchdown performance, one that was duplicated a week later by Eli Manning.

That was the first time in 22 years the Eagles have allowed four TD passes in consecutive games.

Not what anybody expected when the Eagles built a secondary with three Pro Bowl corners and a defensive line with two Pro Bowl ends.

I think that its coming along, he said. We would like it to be much better than it is right now as far as everybody being on the same page, but I guess those things are to be expected.

There are still (new) things now and then. If an offense gets you in a certain situation that as a defense we havent fully gone over or something like that, it can be tough, so you just have to figure it out on the run. The basic stuff, weve got it down, but we havent seen every combination, every formation, every route, so were not going to be as sharp on everything until we start getting into all of those different things.

The Eagles on Sunday face a 49ers team ranked last in the NFL in offense, 30th running the ball and 28th throwing the ball. The Niners have only scored five offensive touchdowns in three games.

The Eagles are actually 12th in the NFL in overall defense but 30th against the run.

If they can slow down tight end Vernon Davis and tailback Frank Gore, the Eagles should be in good shape Sunday.

Then again, they should have been in good shape against the Falcons and Giants, too.

Well try to give them as many different looks as we can with (Davis), Asomugha said. Theyve got some receivers that can play as well. We still have to stop the run, which Gore throughout his career has done well at.

Until you can stop the run its going to limit a lot of things that you can do, to be honest. Once they have to start passing then you can start mixing it up. Our No. 1 focus right now is stop the run and see what we can do after that.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

Watch: Odubel Herrera with a ridiculously awesome bat flip after big home run


Watch: Odubel Herrera with a ridiculously awesome bat flip after big home run

In case you were working this afternoon and weren't able to tune in for the Phillies game in Detroit, Odubel Herrera absolutely killed a baseball off of Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez to put Philadelphia up 5-1 in the top of the 4th.

The ball was crushed and Odubel knew it immediately. He displayed one of the best bat flips a Phillie has flipped in recent memory.

Franzke and L.A. seemingly enjoyed it greatly.

You can watch the wonderful bat flip below. And how about the fantastic photo of it above courtesy of Associated Press photographer Carlos Osorio.

Odubel Herrera just wants to Make Baseball Fun Again.

The Phillies maintain a 8-5 lead in the top of the 8th at the time of this posting.

Flyers Stay or Go Part 4: Matt Read to Mark Streit


Flyers Stay or Go Part 4: Matt Read to Mark Streit

In the fourth of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 can be seen by clicking the links. Today, we begin with Matt Read.

Matt Read
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 11 G, 15 A; Contract: Signed through 2018-19, $3.975 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Read is a two-time 20-goal scorer but is coming off his second straight disappointing season. Simply put, he’s not that player anymore. But he’s not as bad as you would think if you were to search his name on Twitter. He can play on both special teams, which is valuable. He’s not a terrible ninth forward or fourth liner. Read is signed for two more seasons, but the Flyers desperately need goal scoring and I think Hextall finds a taker for Read this summer.

Verdict: GO

Hall: You wonder if a role change will help Read rediscover himself (see story). Maybe a change of scenery does the trick. Or, perhaps Read is simply the player we’ve seen over the past two seasons. He’s a third- or-fourth-liner in the NHL, and that’s OK. But he’s making $14.5 million over four seasons with the Flyers through 2017-18, which doesn’t help. Read will be back but fighting his tail off for playing time. Ultimately, though, Ron Hextall will start looking at all avenues to part ways with Read — it’s just a matter of when.

Paone: No Flyer’s game has fallen off more over the past few seasons than Read’s. After a 22-goal campaign in 2013-14, the 29-year-old forward has scored just 19 goals in the past two seasons combined. That’s a span of 159 games. He struggled so much this past season that he was a healthy scratch at one point. This just screams of a situation where a change of scenery could benefit both parties. The question is how that gets done. Will someone take a chance on Read via trade? Or is a buyout with a projected cap hit at $875,000 next season before going up to $1.375 million in 2017-18 an option? Time will tell. But Read’s time in Philadelphia seems to be up.

Verdict: GO

Brayden Schenn
2015-16 stats: 80 GP, 26 G, 33 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Schenn became a go-to guy this past season for the Flyers, which is exactly what you wanted to see from him in his fifth NHL season. He found a consistency in his game that has been lacking and showed he can play at wing. He scored a career-high 59 points and 26 goals and you have to think he’s still not done growing. He’ll be here for a while.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Schenn, a pending restricted free agent coming off a career season, is hoping for a long-term deal with the Flyers. Ron Hextall and company, of course, want him back. Schenn will be re-signed. As Hextall said, the Flyers will “get it done.” (see story)
Verdict: STAY

Paone: No way Ron Hextall and the Flyers give up on a 24-year-old winger (yeah, Schenn’s found a home on the wing) who’s coming off a career-high 26-goal season and showed profound chemistry with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on the top line. That’s especially true with the way the Flyers crave goal-scoring. No question Schenn will be back with a not-so-little raise.

Verdict: STAY

Nick Schultz
2015-16 stats: 81 GP, 1 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $2.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Schultz is basically the Jason Smith to this Flyers team. He’s respected in the locker room, a guy the team looks to lead and blocks a ton of shots. There’s always room for a guy like Schultz on a roster and it’s good to have him around with the young guns on their way. Ideally, his role decreases next season, but nonetheless, he should stick around.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Dave Hakstol and the Flyers’ locker room routinely extolled Schultz last season for his presence on and off the ice. He’s under contract and will be here for one more year, a season in which he can continue leading by example. And, who knows, maybe a contending team in need of an experienced blueliner will pursue the Flyers at the trade deadline.
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Schultz is what he is at this stage of his career. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman who blocks a ton of shots. He’s also a leader in the locker room, and that can’t be undervalued. With just a year left on his contract, Schultz isn’t in the Flyers’ long-term plans. Think of Schultz as a veteran placeholder until a prospect is ready to join the big club. In the meantime, he can fill his veteran leader role on the blue line for the upcoming season and then the Flyers can reassess the defensive situation after the season.

Verdict: STAY

Wayne Simmonds
2015-16 stats: 81 GP, 32 G, 28 A; Contract: Signed through 2018-19, $3.975 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Simmonds is the Flyers’ first 30-goal scorer since Scott Hartnell in 2011. The Flyers need goals. Simmonds scores goals. This is easy. He’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Simmonds, the emotional heartbeat of the Flyers, is locked up and fresh off a career-best 32-goal campaign. He’s getting better and going nowhere.
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Power forwards who create havoc in front of the net and continue to increase their production year after year don’t grow on trees. Therefore, the Flyers wouldn’t even think of getting rid of Simmonds, who scored a career-high 32 goals and tied another career-high with 60 points. Plus, it’s probably not a good idea to mess with the chemistry Simmonds, Schenn and Giroux had on the top line at the end of the season.

Verdict: STAY

Mark Streit
2015-16 stats: 62 GP, 6 G, 17 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $5.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Streit is two years shy of turning 40, but he’s still an above-average puck mover. He didn’t seem to have the same step in his game after returning from his pubic plate dislocation and lost his job as the Flyers’ power-play quarterback to Shayne Gostisbehere, but he still has value. He’s on the last year of his deal. He’s a candidate to be moved to free up a spot for one of the defensive prospects. Plus, I think they could get something of value for him.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Streit said he takes a lot of pride in training and preparing for the NHL grind at 38 years old. He wants to keep playing until his body says no. The Flyers have an ideal trade chip here in Streit. In 2016-17, he’ll be on the final year of his contract, making him an attractive second-half rental for a win-now team. I think he stays but the Flyers find a suitor and complete a deal before the trade deadline.
Verdict: STAY

Paone: To me, Streit is the most difficult player on the entire roster to answer this question about. On one hand, the Flyers probably would like to move his salary and free up a spot for a younger player or prospect. But, to me, that just seems like it will be easier to do closer to the trade deadline when teams get desperate and will bite on a defenseman who’ll be 39 this coming December but can still produce and can help out tremendously on the power play. I just feel it will be too difficult for the Flyers to move Streit in the offseason. If they do, they’ll have to add something or someone to entice another team into taking him. The chances of having to do that at the trade deadline are much less. For that reason, Streit stays for now.. Plus, it can’t hurt having Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim play a half-season in the AHL until then.

Verdict: STAY (for now)