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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Instant Replay: Warriors 119, Sixers 108

Instant Replay: Warriors 119, Sixers 108

BOX SCORE

Stephen Curry shot 0 for 11 from three and it didn't even shake the Warriors.

In spite of the star's long-range woes, the Warriors beat the Sixers, 119-108, on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers hung tight with the Western Conference powerhouse in the first half. They trailed by just one after the first quarter and three after the second following a 10-0 run. Klay Thompson led all players with 15 points in the first half while Gerald Henderson and Kevin Durant were right behind him with 12. Meanwhile, Curry went 2 for 11 (including 0 for 7 from long range and a pair of airballs) in his first 18 minutes.

The Warriors, though, opened the third with a 12-3 burst to take a 12-point lead. They scored 34 points in the quarter even as Curry's shooting woes continued (0 for 10 from three through three). Durant scored 22 points through three. The Sixers trailed by 13 heading into the fourth.

The Sixers fought until the buzzer, but were never able to overcome that third-quarter spurt. The Warriors won their 50th game of the season (50-9) while the Sixers dropped to 22-37.

Inside the box score
• Curry went scoreless from three for the third time this season and 37th game of his career. He shot 0 for 10 against the Lakers on Nov. 4 and 0 for 8 on Dec. 7 against the Clippers.

• Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

• Draymond Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double along with six rebounds.

• Jahlil Okafor picked up his fifth foul with 9:44 to go in the third. As a result of his foul trouble, Richaun Holmes logged 28 minutes and scored 15 points with four rebounds. Okafor, meanwhile, committed seven turnovers, scored four points and grabbed three rebounds in 17 minutes.

• Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while snatching seven rebounds.

• Robert Covington pulled down a team-high eight boards.

Saric bounces back
Saric hit the ground after being struck in the face by David West in the fourth. He walked off the court on his own and stayed in the game. West was issued a flagrant 1 on the play (see video).

Grab-and-go defense
What's the key to defending the Warriors? Grab whoever is open. Brett Brown didn't want the Sixers to get locked into one-on-one matchups when each player can be a threat.

"You have to accept switching," Brown said. "You have to accept that it's going to be a generic-type gym in relation to matchups don't matter a lot in our early offense. You just have to find Klay wherever he is and whoever it is. You've got to find Steph. You've got to find Kevin. Draymond is a runaway train when he rebounds and leads the break. It's really the instruction that you're not a prisoner to have to guard your original matchup. You're going to see a lot of people on a lot of different people."

Bogut era ends
As expected, the Sixers waived Andrew Bogut on Monday after acquiring him in the Nerlens Noel trade from the Mavericks (see story). Brown has known Bogut since the center was in high school thanks to their Australian connection. He would have liked to have coached Bogut but understands Bogut's interest to sign with a contender.

"I spoke with him at length. His goals aren't aligned with ours," Brown said. "He really feels, and I agree with him, he wants to go play on a playoff team at this stage in his career and make an impact from that sort of vision lens, more playoff-oriented than trying to build something. I respect his candidness. I would have liked to have had him."

Hart in the house
Watch Philadelphia native Kevin Hart ring the ceremonial bell before the game.

Up next
The Sixers travel to Miami to face the Heat on Wednesday. They snapped the Heat's 13-game winning streak in their last meeting. 

Bryan Colangelo on Joel Embiid setback: 'We're reacting in a way that's proactive'

Bryan Colangelo on Joel Embiid setback: 'We're reacting in a way that's proactive'

The timetable for Joel Embiid's return to the court keeps getting murkier.

Embiid was ruled out indefinitely on Monday and will now have an MRI on his injured left knee (see story). He initially suffered a bone bruise on Jan. 20 and it was revealed on Feb. 11 that he had a minor meniscal tear.

The Sixers previously had a plan of rest and rehab in place and targeted a March 4 return for the big man. 

"With respect to what's developed over the last couple of days, it's quite simple, Joel developed a little bit of swelling and soreness," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said during Monday's edition of Philly Sports Talk. "We're reacting in a way that's proactive. We wanted to be more communicative with our fans. We wanted to make sure that there's less question about whether or not he would be available. This is literally changing out for the next two games now to out indefinitely."

That's a quick change of events. As recently as Friday, Embiid was on track to be back in uniform this week.

"I was in a situation where the latest update on Friday was that he was doing well through his planned progression toward returning to play," Colangelo said. "In recent days, his training has developed a reaction with swelling and soreness, and thus we wanted to take a step back, put him on ice for a minute and make sure that we do everything possible, including getting another scan done."

Embiid initially suffered the injury against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 20. The rookie sensation missed three games before coming back vs. the Houston Rockets in a national TV matchup on Jan. 27. He has missed all 13 games since facing the Rockets.

Even with Embiid’s diagnosed tear of his meniscus and recent flaring up of the knee after rehab sessions, the Sixers are being supremely cautious when it comes to any potential procedures. The team is not in a rush to put the center back under the knife after he missed the first two seasons of his career because of a pair of foot surgeries.

"With all due respect, medical injuries are injuries that require care and attention," Colangelo said. "When I take information that comes from the medical team, including doctors and the training staff and the physiotherapists, we apply it as instructed and we do that to protect the athlete. In a case of jumping into someone's knee to operate, when the circumstances are known but the conditions and how he's reacting to certain things are still unknown, I think you go through the planned progression of steps as prescribed and evaluated by doctors."

The quick decision to label Embiid out indefinitely is a sharp contrast to prior updates on the phenom. Just last week, Embiid lamented how the Sixers never announced a true timetable for his return (see story).

Now just days later, Embiid has a prognosis that could technically keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. 

Embiid has proven his worth in 31 games this season by averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes a night. But with only 23 games left on the schedule, will he suit up again this season?

"Out indefinitely means just that. It's indeterminate at this point," Colangelo said. "I think we're all hopeful to get him out there. It would be beneficial for the fans to see him again. It would be great for us as a unit to have him out there as we continue to strive toward winning as the season concludes.

"But at the end of the day, the health and performance of our athletes is first and foremost. We don't want to jeopardize the long-term health."