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





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

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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Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

USA Today Images

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Snap counts: Connor Barwin's snaps decrease; filling in for Bennie Logan


Snap counts: Connor Barwin's snaps decrease; filling in for Bennie Logan

During the week, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he thought defensive end Connor Barwin could benefit from fewer snaps during games. 

That's exactly what happened on Sunday. 

Barwin, who came into the game with the most snaps by an Eagles defensive end, played 49 (64 percent) against the Vikings. He came into the game playing 79 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. On Sunday, he had a huge strip sack of Sam Bradford. 

Taking away some of Barwin's snaps on Sunday was even more impressive considering Vinny Curry played quite a few snaps inside as a defensive tackle with the absence of Bennie Logan (groin). 

Curry played 41 snaps (54 percent) against the Vikings after playing just 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps before this weekend. 

Beau Allen, who started in place of Logan, played 51 snaps (67 percent), while rookie Destiny Vaeao chipped in a career-high 30. Vaeao has had 58 snaps in the last two weeks. 

Ron Brooks played just seven snaps before going down with a serious leg injury. That meant Jalen Mills played 27 snaps and safety Jaylen Watkins played 46 snaps. 

Malcolm Jenkins continued his impressive streak. He played all 76 snaps on Sunday and the only defensive snap he's missed was that weird fake punt in the opener against Cleveland. 

On offense, Josh Huff saw his role increase some on Sunday and he made the most of it. Huff, who had just nine snaps last week, got 20 against the Vikings and caught four balls for 39 yards. Perhaps Huff's production is why Dorial Green-Beckham's snaps dropped to 28 (48 percent). 

Matt Tobin got some extended playing time (20 snaps) at left tackle thanks to Jason Peters' bicep injury. Peters said that had the game been close, he would have been fine to go back in. 

Zach Ertz got 48 snaps (83 percent) but walked away with one catch for 14 yards. He's been on the field, but can't seem to become a part of the passing offense. 

Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles each got 26 snaps on Sunday. Wendell Smallwood got five and Kenjon Barner 3. On the season, Smallwood has 28 carries on 42 snaps. 

Here's a full look at snap counts from Sunday: 

Allen Barbre, 58 snaps, 100 percent
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 58, 100
Jason Kelce, 58, 100
Carson Wentz, 58, 100
Brandon Brooks, 53, 91
Zach Ertz, 48, 83
Jordan Matthews, 45, 78
Jason Peters, 43, 74
Nelson Agholor 43, 74
Brent Celek, 28, 48
Dorial Green-Beckham, 28, 48
Darren Sproles, 26, 45
Ryan Mathews, 26, 45
Josh Huff, 20, 34
Matt Tobin, 20, 34
Trey Burton, 13, 22
Wendell Smallwood, 5, 9
Stefen Wisniewski, 5, 9
Kenjon Barner, 3, 5

Malcolm Jenkins, 76 snaps, 100 percent
Nigel Bradham, 76, 100
Jordan Hicks, 76, 100
Nolan Carroll, 75, 99
Rodney McLeod, 75, 99
Brandon Graham, 57, 75
Fletcher Cox, 54, 71
Beau Allen, 51, 67
Connor Barwin, 49, 64
Jaylen Watkins, 46, 61
Leodis McKelvin, 44, 58
Vinny Curry, 41, 54
Destiny Vaeao, 30, 39
Jalen Mills, 27, 36
Mychal Kendricks, 24, 32
Marcus Smith, 18, 24
Ron Brooks, 7, 9
Steven Means, 5, 7
Stephen Tulloch, 5, 7