Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with his hot pink-rimmed glasses resting a click south of his green mohawk, answering questions quick and casually. Nnamdi Asomugha the stall over wearing a button-down and tie, carefully digesting each volley before returning serve.
On the field, Asomugha is the tactician, each movement measured and with purpose. Rodgers-Cromartie more loose and reliant on recovery speed.
“We laugh at that,” said Asomugha on the whole Odd Couple element. “But it’s always been like that. Every team I’ve been on there’s been a different personality with the other corner, and you see that throughout the league. But you know, it’s like a marriage: opposites attract, so I’m good with it. He’s good with it.”
The key similarity is that they are both press corners. Last season the secondary was out of whack because you had an off corner on one side in Asante Samuel, a press corner in Asomugha on the other, and Rodgers-Cromartie playing out of position inside. We were reminded of the struggles that ensued on Sunday when, with Asomugha playing back, Mohamed Massaquoi shook loose after a quick fire from Brandon Weeden and darted past the veteran corner for a 24-yard gain.
“There were a couple times where we played off,” said Asomugha. “The very first one when they caught the slant, the quick slant to No. 11, that was an off sort of coverage. Once we got away from that we just got in their face and started getting into a groove. And it felt good.”
That Massaquoi catch and run was on the Browns’ second offensive play of the game. They managed just 94 passing yards the rest of the way. A lot of the Eagles’ defensive success comes with the qualifier that they were facing a rookie quarterback surrounded by a lot of inexperienced parts. Still, the secondary looked buttoned up. Rodgers-Cromartie had a pair of interceptions and nearly came away with a third. Kurt Coleman had a pair of picks. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie combined for seven passes defensed.
“They challenged us, played a lot of man-to-man, and there were a lot of times where there was really nowhere to go with the football,” said Weeden, who ended with a 5.1 QB rating. “They didn’t give me a lot throughout the day.”
Rodgers-Cromartie — pink glasses and all — credited the defensive line after the game. He knew the ball had to come out quick and approached his job accordingly. Of course, this is a defensive front that generated 46 sacks on their own last season, and the secondary often wasn’t able to take advantage of the consistent pressure.
The defensive backs hope Sunday is a sign they have turned the corner.
“The energy we had out there, it’s a good start,” said Cullen Jenkins. “With Nnamdi and DRC, Kurt and all them. If they play like that it makes everybody look good.”
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