Starting Over? Eagles Have Big Decisions to Make on Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Starting Over? Eagles Have Big Decisions to Make on Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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The Eagles were at one time thought to have an embarrassment
of riches at the cornerback position, so much so they traded four-time Pro
Bowler Asante Samuel for a seventh-round pick last offseason. Less than a year removed
from that laughable exchange, their cornerbacks are just plain embarrassing.

Nnamdi Asomugha arrived in Philadelphia during the summer of
2011 with a reputation for being one of the premier cover corners in the game,
but he often appeared confused and misused in whatever defense the Eagles
utilized, and thus was frequently abused by opposing wide receivers. Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie came over from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb deal around the same
time Asomugha signed on, forcing DRC to the inside his first season here, which
was an abject failure to say the least – he wasn’t worlds better back home on
the outside in ’12, either.

The times, they are a changing.

Rodgers-Cromartie is almost certain to hit free agency when
the curtain is drawn on March 13. Reports indicate the Eagles will decline to
use the franchise tag on the soon-to-be 27 year old, and he hasn’t given the
front office much reason to negotiate an expensive, long-term extension. They
could theoretically re-sign DRC if the market is soft, but the fact that the organization
appears to be leaving him out in the open might speak volumes about their
feelings.

Asomugha on the other hand is under contract through 2015,
but there is no way the Eagles are bringing him back at his current salary, a
whopping $15 million in ’13. There is a cap hit of $4 million if he’s released,
but given how dreadful Nnamdi has been, that figure is hardly prohibitive. Turning
32 in July, his best days seemingly behind him, Asomugha’s best play could be
to renegotiate, although there is little to suggest one way or the other the
Eagles care to.

One thing is for certain: they can’t both return. Philadelphia
had one of the NFL’s worst secondaries last season, even though they surprisingly
were a top-10 unit in yards surrendered. However, opposing quarterbacks posted
the second-highest passer rating against the Eagles (99.6), and no defense allowed
more touchdown passes (33) while only two claimed fewer interceptions (8).

The problem is the Birds haven’t exactly demonstrated they
possess tremendous depth at the position. Brandon Boykin had a promising rookie
season, but he played largely in the slot where due to his diminutive stature
(5-9, 182) many believe the fourth-round pick is best suited. Curtis Marsh –
taken in the third round of the ’11 draft – has the size (6-1, 197) and
athleticism, but is still incredibly raw with just 75 snaps through two
seasons. Brandon Hughes doesn’t stand out in any way, shape, or form.

Obviously the personnel at cornerback is going to be a
priority this offseason, but there will be limitations on the front office as
well. There simply may be too many other needs across the board to replace both
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie in one offseason, unless Chip Kelly is counting
on somebody from the current roster to step up.

Should they attempt move on from both, there are actually a
fair amount of quality, mid-level starters that will be available in free
agency. The draft would be the obvious place to address the problem, but no way
Howie Roseman is coming away with two who can start right away, and even one
that is ready from day one might be a stretch.

That Asmougha hasn’t been released already could be telling,
or it may just mean the Eagles are only now getting to him after spending a lot
of time settling their quarterback situation. This is the time for clubs to cut
veterans for cap reasons though, and for now he’s still around.

Nnamdi probably has at least a better chance of staying than
DRC does. There is no denying Rodgers-Cromartie has far greater upside, plus
the pure talent to play at an elite level as evidenced by the former 16th
overall pick’s selection to the Pro Bowl in ’09.

Yet if you had to choose between the two, Asomugha probably
makes more sense provided they can renegotiate his deal. For one thing, DRC is will
be out to maximize his earnings – money and more importantly years. From an
on-the-field standpoint, the difference between the two is while Asomugha has
struggled mightily to get the job done, whenever DRC falters he’s typically been
accused of giving lackluster effort.

The Eagles went from the instantly recognizable veteran duo
of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, to growing up with young guns Lito Sheppard
and Sheldon Brown, and on to the addition of the brash ballhawk Samuel without
missing a beat. Asante even played at a high level with the combination of
Ellis Hobbs and Dimitri Patterson across from him for one year.

The Nnamdi-DRC duo was a far cry from what we became used to
during the Andy Reid era to say the least. Unfortunately, we may not be out of
the woods quite yet.

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Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”