If Nnamdi Can't Go Today, How Much Will He Be Missed?

If Nnamdi Can't Go Today, How Much Will He Be Missed?

Short answer, yes, he'd be missed. While Nnamdi Asomugha has had what many consider to be a subpar season, it's probably still better than a good number of cornerbacks in the NFL. He's been beaten for some big plays, but when utilized properly, Asomugha is one of the few guys who can truly take an All-Pro receiver out of the game. That hasn't changed.

But how much use is that particular skill against the New England Patriots? Nnamdi hasn't shown much evidence of being particularly great when moved into new positions, for instance playing zone coverage, or defending anywhere other than near the sidelines -- where the Patriots' offense is much weaker. Last we heard, Asomugha is likely a game-time decision today, so assuming he can't go, how far-reaching would the impact of that loss be for the Eagles?

Broken down in its simplest form, Tom Brady has completed 253 passes for 3,266 yards this season. 67.6% of those completions have been to Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, or Aaron Hernandez -- two tight ends, and a slot receiver who traditionally earn their money over the middle or on otherwise intermediate routes -- for an astounding 76.9% of the yards. Another 12.0% of receptions are to backs or Julian Edelman, another slot-type receiver.

What that means is only 51 balls, or one in five, for 21.5% of the yards have gone to wide receivers who typically line up outside the numbers -- and Chad Johnson is out on Sunday. The only other wideout on the roster besides Deion Branch who has caught a pass all season is Matthew Slater, who has one ball for 46 yards.

So as outstanding as the Pats' passing game has been -- second in the league to be exact -- they haven't exactly been a threat in the most conventional of manners. Why that is, well, that's up for some debate. Johnson is clearly reaching the end of his career, and Branch is no spring chicken either. Obviously they are more talented in the slot and tight end to begin with, plus Tom Brady is aging. There are actually some whispers about his arm strength at this stage.

Will the Eagles miss an outside, man-to-man press corner with all of that in mind? Hopefully not. Of course, Juan Castillo hasn't used Asomugha in just one way the entire season, and while his new role hasn't always been met with great success, you can't tell me they have many better options to cover dynamic players like Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez.

The suggestion all week has been Castillo would have Asomugha spend some of his Sunday helping out with the Patriots' second-year tight ends, most notably Gronk, who is quickly becoming a Pro Bowler for years to come in the AFC. Without him, the Eagles could run into some serious match-up problems. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is out as well, which pretty much leaves whatever maligned linebackers and safeties are still lying around to draw such complicated assignments.

The defense has improved by leaps over the last five games compared to the first five, so I'm not prepared to say Castillo absolutely can't come up with a game plan to control the middle of the field. He is starting from a disadvantage though, and the lack of Asomugha, while not quite the ideal foil to Bill Belichick's ever-evolving scheme, certainly would have been a talented monkey wrench to throw in the middle of the field.

Because however down the Delaware Valley is on Nnamdi Asomugha, he isn't just a reputation. He's a damn good player, learning a new scheme, and on the receiving end of a few more targets than he was accustomed in Oakland. Take a 6'2" defensive back with three trips to the Pro Bowl off the field, and the defense will feel that one way or another.

Still not sure it's the end of the world either. Where he is most effective is not necessarily where the Patriots are able to beat the Eagles on Sunday.

Flyers Notes: Michal Neuvirth starts big season; Travis Konecny with new chance

Flyers Notes: Michal Neuvirth starts big season; Travis Konecny with new chance

VOORHEES, N.J. — In many ways, Michal Neuvirth’s contract year officially gets underway Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
The Flyers’ goalie will make his preseason debut against the Bruins and head coach Dave Hakstol’s plan is to play Neuvirth the entire game.
 
The 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 season, as can his goalie partner Steve Mason. The two make up a formidable tandem and both are considered No. 1 goalies.
 
The outlook doesn’t change, though, for Neuvirth.
 
“Every season is big,” he said Saturday after taking the ice at Flyers Skate Zone. “It’s a good opportunity. I want to play my best hockey.
 
“Just going to focus on myself and try to prepare the best I can for the season right now.”
 
Neuvirth started his preparation by playing in the World Cup of Hockey for Czech Republic. His last game was Sept. 17 when he lost to loaded Canada, 6-0, still making an impressive 44 saves on 50 shots.
 
He’s now ready to get back between the pipes at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“Very excited,” Neuvirth said. “I haven’t played for a while and it was a good week for me in practice and finally get into a game.”
 
Entering his second season with the Flyers, Neuvirth is fresh off a career year in 2015-16, when he went 18-8-4 with personal bests in goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.924). He also shined in the postseason when he relieved Mason, going 2-1 against the top-seeded Capitals and stopped 103 of 105 shots.
 
Despite the internal competition, Neuvirth and Mason have always supported each other.
 
“It’s a great situation,” Neuvirth said. “Mase is a great guy, I love to be with him on the same team. Unfortunately only one guy can play. Like Mase said, we’re making each other better every day.”
 
Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek, all of whom played in the World Cup, will also make their preseason debuts.
 
Trying the left
Travis Konecny’s tryout at left wing starts tonight, as he’ll be centered by Sean Couturier with Jakub Voracek on the right, making up the Flyers’ second line.
 
Hakstol debuted the trio during Friday’s practice. It will now see its first game action.
 
“It’s exciting,” Konecny said. “They’re high-skilled, hard-working forwards, so it makes it easier for a guy like me to just keep things simple and just let the game take over and have fun.”
 
Left wing is Konecny’s greatest shot at making the Flyers’ roster. The Flyers are heavy at right wing, where if Konecny were to play, it would be on a bottom-six line. If he makes the roster, the Flyers likely want their prized prospect to play more than bottom-six minutes for developmental reasons.
 
“New spot for Travis in terms of playing on the left side, in our camp anyways,” Hakstol said. “He’s played there before. It’s his second day at left wing and he’ll get the opportunity there tonight.
 
“There’s an adjustment but good players make those adjustments.”
 
Konecny is happy to play left — whatever is asked of him.
 
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just the other side of the ice,” he said. “I’m sure I’ve found myself on the other side of the ice when I’m right wing before.
 
“I’m not too worried about it.”
 
Young pairing
Instead of pairing Ivan Provorov with a veteran blueliner, which has oftentimes been the case during preseason, Hakstol is putting him with fellow 19-year-old prospect Philippe Myers.
 
“Those two young guys have played a little bit together on the power play, they’ve paired up pretty well in practice and I think they’ll handle things well,” Hakstol said. “They’ve got pretty good chemistry between the two of them. I’m sure there will be some challenges, but they’ll be fine.”
 
Five to Phantoms
According to a report by Tony Androckitis of the Home News, forwards Petr Straka, Andy Miele, Chris Conner and Greg Carey, as well as defenseman T.J. Brennan have cleared waivers and will join AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The five were reportedly waived on Friday.
 
Schultz skates
Injured defenseman Nick Schultz (knee) skated before practice Saturday. It was announced Wednesday he would miss four to seven days.
 
Projected lineup
F:
Brayden Schenn-Nick Cousins-Wayne Simmonds
 
Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
 
Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal-Dale Weise
 
Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov
 
D: Shayne Gostisbehere-Michael Del Zotto
 
Ivan Provorov-Philippe Myers
 
Travis Sanheim-Andrew MacDonald
 
G: Michal Neuvirth
 
Steve Mason

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were all drafted and developed by the Phillies. They came to the majors and became the best first baseman, shortstop and second baseman in franchise history.
 
And, of course, they were a huge part of the core of the team that won the 2008 World Series.
 
Time moves on and so do great players.
 
Rollins was traded in December 2014 as the team began a rebuild. Utley was traded in August 2015. On Sunday, Howard, the last piece from that championship season, will play his last game with the Phillies.
 
Rollins took some time Saturday to pass along some thoughts on his friend’s time in red pinstripes.
 
“When Ryan first arrived in Philadelphia, he was merely filling in for Jim Thome in the eyes of many, but he did not let that opportunity to shine pass him by,” Rollins wrote. “He quickly became feared as he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years and reached 200 home runs quicker than anyone in the history of the game. He loved the pressure and wanted to be the man at the plate when the game mattered most.”
 
The Phillies won five division titles from 2007 to 2011. Howard led the majors in homers twice and RBIs three times.
 
“During our run, we leaned on him many times for big hits and clutch home runs and he found ways to deliver,” Rollins said. “Ryan never stopped working to better himself and his craft, whether it was getting to the field early for extra defensive work or finding that sweet home run stroke. Although he hit a lot of them, he was more than just a power hitter -- he was a great teammate.
 
“We all hoped to bring more than one championship to Philadelphia, but without Ryan that one may not have been possible. So, many thanks to 'Big Piece' for being such a big piece of the best years of my career in the City of Brotherly Love!”