Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Look At the 2011 Draft Class

General consensus seems to be that you should wait at least three years before evaluating a draft class.

But considering the Eagles released their 2011 second-round pick, Jaiquawn Jarrett, yesterday, now seems like a good time to at least assess how each of the team’s 11 picks is doing.

Danny Watkins (1st round, 23rd overall): It took him awhile to get on the field as a rookie. The Eagles started journeyman Kyle DeVan over Watkins for four games last season. When he did get on the field, Watkins produced mixed results and probably had more struggles in pass protection than any of the four other linemen. The offseason was supposed to really help him, but Watkins had issues in the opener. It was only one game, but the expectation is for him to at least develop into a reliable, above-average starter in 2012.

Jaiquawn Jarrett (2nd round, 54th overall): As I mentioned yesterday, most draft analysts thought Jarrett was a good prospect coming out of Temple. Last year, at one point, the Eagles thought Jarrad Page was a better option at safety. Jarrett didn’t get onto the field until the starters ahead of him went down with injuries. This offseason, the coaches never publicly voiced that Jarrett was showing great improvement. At no point was he in contention for a starting job, and Jarrett had a terrible first preseason game, filling in for Nate Allen. Think about this: The team has decided that David Sims – someone whom the Browns were ready to release, and someone who has never played an NFL snap – is a better option right now than Jarrett, who has been working with Eagles coaches for the past 14 months. In other words, if they saw any signs that Jarrett was getting it, they would have kept him. Instead, he is gone.

Curtis Marsh (3rd round, 90th overall): He’s largely an unknown, but the potential appears to be there with Marsh. When healthy, he’ll be the team’s primary backup at left and right cornerback. Marsh had a strong preseason, and if either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t back with the team in 2013, he’ll get a chance to start. If both guys are back, Marsh will continue to get a chance to be the first backup.

Casey Matthews (4th round, 116th overall): Given that the Eagles didn’t feel like Watkins or Jarrett were ready to start last season, I’m not sure why they decided Matthews would be just fine as the team’s middle linebacker. We all know how that experiment turned out. On the flip side, Matthews kept working, and by the end of the season, he was flashing his potential in sub packages. He’s battled injuries this summer and was only used on special teams in Week 1, but Matthews could see a more prominent role at some point in 2012.

Alex Henery (4th round, 120th overall): Not sure exactly what to make of Henery at this point. Let’s just see how this season shakes out.

Dion Lewis (5th round, 149th overall): Didn’t get much of a chance to play as a rookie. And now when he gets healthy, he’ll have to hold off Bryce Brown as LeSean McCoy’s backup. Chris Polk is on the roster too. Lewis had a good summer and looked like he could be a playmaker in the screen game. If the coaches are serious about getting McCoy some rest this season, Lewis will get a shot to prove himself.

Julian Vandervelde (5th round, 161st overall): He had a poor preseason, was let go and landed on the Bucs’ practice squad. The Eagles are thin at guard/center, and it says something that they went with perennial practice-squad guy Dallas Reynolds over Vandervelde. Reynolds’ comfort level at center clearly gave him the edge to be Jason Kelce’s backup.

Jason Kelce (6th round, 191st overall): Right now, you’d have to say he’s the best of this class. Kelce started from Week 1 last year and showed steady improvement as a rookie. He’s been given more responsibility in terms of pre-snap calls this season and was excellent as a run blocker against the Browns. He still needs to improve, but has flashed potential. The expectation is for Kelce to be the team’s center for years to come.

Brian Rolle (6th round, 193rd overall): He played WILL as a rookie, and while Rolle made mistakes and missed tackles, he also looked like a playmaker. But a couple weeks ago, he lost the starting job to Akeem Jordan and was a special-teams player in Week 1. Chances are the Eagles will shuffle up the linebacker situation at some point in the coming weeks and months, so look for Rolle to get another chance for playing time.

Greg Lloyd (7th round, 237th overall): He was dealt to the Colts during training camp.

Stanley Havili (7th round, 240th overall): He’s probably the sleeper of the group. Havili spent 2011 on the practice squad, but had a strong summer and won the fullback job. The question with Havili has been whether he can hold up as a lead blocker, but he looked pretty good in that aspect Sunday. His ceiling is definitely higher now than it was a month ago.

WHAT YOU MISSED

As I mentioned above, the Eagles let Jarrett go and signed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. T-Mac’s got details.

Back when Jarrett was drafted, most analysts thought he was a good prospect.

I knocked out a series of game reviews. The first focused on how the Eagles used Nnamdi Asomugha and the defensive backs. The second detailed strong outings from DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. And the third was about the defensive line, which was led by Jason Babin. For all the Eagles game reviews from Week 1, click here.

And finally, in case you missed the debut of Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic, it’s available for download on iTunes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Ravens took care of the Bengals Monday night. Some interesting notes on their performance from Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:

The Ravens went no-huddle on 21 of 58 snaps, an indicator it’s no passing fancy. They were in the shotgun 15 times. Tight end Dennis Pitta, who had a career-high 73 receiving yards, was on the field for 44 plays while Ed Dickson played 39 snaps. Often in double-tight-end formations and three-wide-receiver looks. Left guard Ramon Harewood and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele never left the field and held up solidly in starting debuts.

The no-huddle note is of particular interest, considering how the Eagles like to rotate defensive linemen in and out of the game.

Good job by DeSean Jackson spending 9/11 at Fort Dix and donating $50,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project. CSNPhilly.com has video detailing Jackson’s off day.

Tommy Lawlor’s detailed game review over on IgglesBlitz.com is always worth a read. On Michael Vick:

My biggest issue with him is that he made poor decisions and/or played slow. Guys would come open, Vick would see them, and then he’d throw the ball. By that time, defenders would either have the player covered or would be on the way. If this was 2009, I’d understand. Vick started 25 games over the last 2 years. He is a veteran QB. You must anticipate plays and throw the ball when the player is about to be open or is just coming open. You cannot wait until he is wide open and then throw. That’s too late.

And finally, Tim wrote yesterday about Vick being mic’d up Sunday. The footage he mentioned is now on YouTube so I embedded it below.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back at Novacare to get ready for Sunday’s home opener against the Ravens. Andy Reid meets with the media, and we’ll also hear from players. By the way, the Eagles are 3-point favorites in this matchup. The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1 p.m. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Snapshot: CB Preview

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Throughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. Click here to get to all of them. Today, we cover the cornerbacks.

The roster: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes.

Player in the spotlight: Nnamdi Asomugha

Nationally, some are pushing the idea that Juan Castillo and the defensive coaches realized the error in their ways last season and will simply line Asomugha up on the right side and let him play man coverage all game.

But those of you who are regular readers of Birds 24/7 know that’s not the case.

Yes, the Eagles have made adjustments from last year’s defense. They have taken out certain coverage schemes that caused confusion in the secondary or were just generally ineffective. But Asomugha is still going to be used in a variety of ways. He’ll play some man coverage and press at the line of scrimmage. He’ll play some zone. He might switch sides with Rodgers-Cromartie at times. And he’ll move inside to shadow tight ends on certain weeks.

The question that we don’t have an answer to is this: At 31, does Asomugha still possess the same physical skills that made him an elite corner with the Raiders? If the answer is yes, then it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that the Eagles should use him the same way Oakland did. But if the answer is no, then they need to find the best way to utilize his current skill set after signing Asomugha to a five-year, $60M contract with $25M guaranteed.

With tight ends becoming such a big part of the NFL passing game, using Asomugha against the likes of Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten on certain weeks could make sense. He had success in that role last season.

Looking at Football Outsiders charting numbers, Asomugha was targeted 38 times last year, which translates to 9.7 percent of the team’s overall targets. That was an increase from his previous two seasons in Oakland (31 targets/7.9 percent in 2010 and 25 targets/6.5 percent in 2009). But quarterbacks still much preferred throwing at Asante Samuel on the other side. Samuel was targeted 62 times, which translates to 18.1 percent of the team’s overall targets.

The key for Asomugha in 2012 will be making plays on the ball when he is targeted. There has been a lot of talk about how the Eagles can part ways with Michael Vick after the season if he doesn’t produce. The same can be said for Asomugha, who’s due $15M in 2013.

You should also know that…

* Rodgers-Cromartie is in the final year of his contract. The 26-year-old has all the physical tools to be an elite corner, but he was a poor fit in the slot last season. Rodgers-Cromartie improved when he moved to the outside late in the season, although his tackling skills aren’t much better than Samuel’s. Given the target numbers I mentioned above, Rodgers-Cromartie can expect to see plenty of action this season. He could parlay a strong start into a contract extension.

* One player the Eagles need to find out about is Curtis Marsh. A third-round pick in 2011, Marsh will be the first cornerback in should Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie go down. He’ll also play on the right side if and when Asomugha gets moved inside. With a strong showing, Marsh could put himself in place to start in 2013, should the Eagles cut ties with Asomugha or let Rodgers-Cromartie walk.

* Brandon Boykin won the starting nickel corner job. That means he’ll likely be on the field for about half of the team’s defensive snaps. Boykin played inside in college and has outstanding athleticism. He’ll endure some growing pains but should be a solid contributor right away.

* Brandon Hughes provides depth and versatility. He can play inside or outside and will also contribute on special teams.

* The players have had nothing but great things to say about new secondary coach Todd Bowles. If this unit matches or exceeds expectations in 2012, Bowles will deserve a lot of credit.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

DB Review: Boykin Or Hanson?

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.Here’s a review of how the Eagles defensive backs performed against the Browns after having re-watched Friday night’s game. Click here for the linebacker review, here for the defensive line and here for the review of the offense.

Nnamdi Asomugha – He was all over Josh Gordon, but the wide receiver made a 28-yard catch on a nice throw from Brandon Weeden on the first play from scrimmage. Asomugha also gave up a 6-yard completion to Mohamed Massaquoi in the red zone. Weeden went after him on a deep ball later in the quarter, but Asomugha had good coverage. Don’t expect quarterbacks to target him a lot this season, but one key to improvement will be Asomugha making plays on balls that are thrown his way.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – He jumped in front of Massaquoi, but couldn’t get a hand on the ball, giving up a 12-yard completion. Like the rest of the starters in the back seven, Rodgers-Cromartie came out after two series. He’s had a good summer and will try to carry momentum over to the regular season as he enters the final year of his contract.

Curtis Marsh – He played left cornerback with the second team. Nice one-on-one tackle, stopping Greg Little after a 3-yard gain. Gordon got free for a 10-yard reception between Marsh and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second. He’s in place to be the first backup should Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie go down. And Marsh will see the field in the Eagles’ special nickel package where Asomugha moves inside.

Joselio Hanson – Played with the first-team in nickel and didn’t get targeted. Trying to hold off the rookie (below).

Brandon Boykin – He came in with the second team and played well. You can see Boykin’s athleticism throughout the course of a game. He broke up a pass intended for Little on third down in the first. And Boykin broke up a third-down pass intended for Massaquoi near the sideline. He had good coverage, but gave up a 19-yard completion to Jordan Norwood in the second. Weeden had a lot of time on the play.

Brandon Hughes – He stepped in for Asomugha, playing right cornerback with the second team. Hughes got beat by Gordon for a 12-yard slant on 3rd-and-10 with Cleveland backed up inside its own 5. Not sure there’s going to be room for Hughes on the final roster, but he’s got a shot.

Trevard Lindley – The 2010 fourth-round pick saw extended action. His hit forced an incompletion in the flat in the second. Lindley was challenged on a deep ball; it looked like he got beat initially, but rookie Travis Benjamin couldn’t make the catch. Joshua Cribbs beat Lindley on a 13-yard completion in the third.

Kevin Thomas – He came in and played right cornerback in the third. Thomas was cut yesterday. The Eagles acquired him during training camp in a trade with the Colts in exchange for linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd.

Cliff Harris – He was cut this morning. Harris had an interception on Friday off a deflected pass. He impressed early in camp, but suffered an ankle injury. As Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast pointed out, Harris was No. 15 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board just 15 months ago. But apparently, the Eagles didn’t see enough potential in the undrafted free agent to hold on to him.

Nate Allen – Started, but played limited snaps. Has had a good camp and finished last season strong. The Eagles will need him to take the leap in his third season.

Kurt Coleman – Made a couple nice plays against the run. He and Mychal Kendricks combined to bring Montario Hardesty down after a 6-yard gain in the first. Coleman played up in the box and stopped Hardesty after a 1-yard gain. He has not been challenged by the other safeties on the roster and will start in Week 1 alongside Allen.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – With Tom Nelson cut yesterday, Jarrett looks like he’ll make the roster, although the Eagles could add safety help once other teams trim down to 53. Jarrett had good coverage on Little, helping to force an incompletion in the first. Later though, Cleveland’s Rod Windsor got behind him and in front of Thomas for a 24-yard completion. Jarrett and Boykin brought Brandon Jackson down after a 9-yard run.

Phillip Thomas – All summer, it’s looked like pretty much any safety on the roster would have a chance to survive cuts. Thomas is a longshot, but played well Friday, filling in with the second team alongside Jarrett. He broke up a pass intended for the tight end in the first and had another pass breakup in the end zone in the second. Good job of helping Hughes on the slant and go in the second; Thomas nearly had an interception on the play. Thomas made a good tackle on Norwood after a 4-yard completion in the second. And he came on a blitz, forcing Seneca Wallace out of the pocket in the fourth. On the 3-yard touchdown, Thomas tripped and fell in coverage against tight end Evan Moore.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

DB Review: Asomugha Showcases Tackling Skills

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the Eagles defensive backs performed Monday night, after having re-watched the game. Check out the linebacker review here, the defensive line review here and look for write-ups of the rest of the positional groups on Wednesday.

Nnamdi Asomugha – The veteran cornerback deserves some credit here. Last Monday, he was involved in a mid-air collision with Nate Allen, suffering a lip laceration, sore neck and whiplash-type symptoms. He tried to practice on Thursday, but was having trouble with a spasm in his back and had to head inside early. He participated Friday, but could barely talk afterwards as his lip continued to recover. Asomugha probably just as easily could have been cautious and sat out this game, but he thought it was important to be on the field.

And he played well. Asomugha had his share of tackling issues last season, but he was excellent in that aspect Monday night. He lined up inside on one play and tackled Shane Vereen after a 2-yard gain. He made a textbook tackle on Vereen, stopping him after a 1-yard gain on a screen. And he made a nice read and tackle on a wide receiver screen to Jeremy Ebert, dropping him for a 3-yard loss in the second. I believe Asomugha was only targeted once, and it was an incompletion to Deion Branch.

The only downside was a costly holding penalty on a 3rd-and-7 play that negated a Trent Cole sack. But overall, Asomugha played well, and he stayed on the field well into the third quarter with the rest of the starters.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – It was mostly good for DRC before he left the game in the second quarter because of a shoulder injury. Rodgers-Cromartie made a great break on the ball and nearly came up with an interception while covering Donte’ Stallworth in the first. On an almost identical play later, he came up with the pick, but Fletcher Cox was whistled for roughing the passer. Rodgers-Cromartie also broke up a pass intended for Danny Woodhead in the red zone. The only negative I saw was when he got beat by Branch over the middle for a 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-5.

Joselio Hanson – It looks like the competition between him and Brandon Boykin is still on. Hanson started the game as the nickel corner, but rotated in and out with the rookie the rest of the game. He lost track of Julian Edelman on a quick screen that picked up 16 yards on 3rd-and-8. And he had trouble sticking with Edelman on an 8-yard crossing route in the first. Hanson had good coverage on Ebert, breaking up a pass (albeit with this back) over the middle in the first. He sat out the second and returned in the third.

Curtis Marsh – With Rodgers-Cromartie leaving early, Marsh saw some time at left cornerback. He also played in dime when Rodgers-Cromartie was still in the game. Marsh got targeted fairly often. He broke up a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Stallworth. Along with Nate Allen, he had good coverage on Stallworth on a deep pattern in the second. Marsh was targeted on third down in the third, but had great coverage on Stallworth and forced an incompletion. It looked like he had pretty good coverage on Stallworth down the right sideline on a deep ball that was incomplete in the third. The one time he got beat was on a 20-yard completion to Stallworth on 3rd-and-9 late in the first half. Marsh also did a good job on special teams, downing a Chas Henry punt at the 6 in the fourth.

Brandon Boykin – I believe this was the first time all summer Boykin got a chance to run with the starters. He’ll now have a couple weeks to wrestle the first-team nickel job away from Hanson. Boykin entered the game in the second and came back in late in the third. It didn’t look like he was targeted. It’ll be interesting to see if Boykin mixes in with the first team at practice Wednesday.

Brandon Hughes – He entered the game on defense mid-way through the third quarter, playing right cornerback. Hughes had good coverage on Branch, but Ryan Mallett still made a nice throw for a 14-yard completion in the third. Hughes broke up a deep ball to Stallworth down the left sideline in the third. And on Mat McBriar’s first punt, he was the first man down in coverage, but missed the tackle. Looks like Hughes is facing an uphill battle for a roster spot, unless someone ahead of him gets injured.

Trevard Lindley – He came in to play left cornerback late in the third.

Nate Allen – Encouraging signs all around for Allen (7 tackles, 2 solo). He did a good job against the run, stopping Vereen after a 2-yard gain in the first. Allen dropped Vereen after a 1-yard gain in the red zone in the second. And he flew in to help trip Stevan Ridley up after a 2-yard gain in the third. It’s always tough to judge safety play off of TV, but Allen had good coverage on one deep ball, breaking up a Hoyer attempt intended for Stallworth.

Kurt Coleman – Didn’t notice Coleman much, which sometimes can be a good thing for safeties. Branch found a hole in the Eagles’ zone, in front of Coleman and behind Mychal Kendricks, for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-13 in the second. But that very well could have been on the rookie not taking a deep enough drop.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – He didn’t really get a lot of chances to show his progress. Jarrett entered the game mid-way through the third quarter. It looked like he closed on time on a deep incompletion to Stallworth down the left sideline. Still very much on the roster bubble.

Tom Nelson – With Oshiomogho Atogwe sidelined because of a hamstring injury, he ran with the second team. Nelson made a good tackle on a screen to Vereen, limiting him to 4 yards on 3rd-and-10. He also suffered a high ankle sprain during the game.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Asomugha Returns to Practice, Has Trouble Speaking

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi AsomughaNnamdi Asomugha was a full participant in practice Friday afternoon for the first time since a violent mid-air collision with Nate Allen on Monday.

Asomugha suffered a lip laceration and a sore neck. On Tuesday, Andy Reid said the cornerback had “whiplash-type symptoms.”

Yesterday, Asomugha began practice, but did not finish because of discomfort in his neck. He said today that he couldn’t talk much because his lip is still recovering. Asomugha added that his neck is fine.

“It feels good to be back, get the wind back.” he said. “I just can’t really talk.”

Asked about what was going through his head right after the collision, Asomugha said, “I didn’t know what was going on, just the initial pain down my spine. Besides that, it’s fine.”

Players were in full pads yesterday, but today, it was just helmets and shells.

Meanwhile, Joselio Hanson, Antonio Dixon and Curtis Marsh all returned to practice and participated fully.

Hanson suffered a dislocated right pinky finger yesterday. It was heavily wrapped today. Dixon left yesterday because of a left triceps spasm, but he returned. And Marsh has been dealing with a hamstring injury. He said he “definitely” expects to play Monday vs. the Patriots.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

DB Review: Issues For DRC, Asomugha, Jarrett

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi AsomughaHere is my player-by-player review of the Eagles defensive backs after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. I will provide breakdowns on the other positions on Friday and Saturday. Click here for the linebackers.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – On one play in the first, he followed wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was in motion. Brown started out to the right of the formation, went in motion, but then came back. Last year, Eagles cornerbacks generally played one side or the other. But I think you’re going to seem Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha match up with specific receivers at times this year when it makes sense. Rodgers-Cromartie was good in coverage. He gave up a 7-yard completion on the play I just described, but later stayed with Emmanuel Sanders one-on-one as Ben Roethlisberger took a shot at him deep. However, Rodgers-Cromartie had a couple of issues we saw with him last year. He missed a tackle on running back Jonathan Dwyer, allowing him to pick up a few extra yards. And on the very next play, Rodgers-Cromartie launched himself at Byron Leftwich and picked up a 15-yard penalty. It was pretty much a textbook play of what you’re not supposed to do. He’s paid to cover, but Rodgers-Cromartie needs to be more reliable in the other aspects of his game.

Nnamdi Asomugha – As expected, he was used in different ways – both on the left and right sides. Asomugha assisted in run support on a 2-yard carry by Isaac Redman and again on a 4-yard run. It looked like the Eagles were in zone on a 3rd-and-11 play where Asomugha was initially on Sanders, but then passed him off. Roethlisberger found Sanders for a 17-yard completion before Jaiquawn Jarrett could get to him. On another play, Asomugha was used exactly how people want him to be used, playing man coverage on Antonio Brown and pressing at the line of scrimmage. The only problem? Asomugha got beat inside on a 14-yard completion. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger hole in a zone than the one he, Jarrett and Brian Rolle left on the Steelers’ first touchdown. Later, Asomugha didn’t exactly give great effort on Dwyer’s 33-yard run down the left sideline.

Joselio Hanson – He’s holding on to the first-team nickel corner job for now and made a couple very nice plays in this one. Hanson tackled Chris Rainey after a third-down completion and stopped him short of a first. He also made a good tackle on Redman in the flat on third down, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal. I’m getting close to re-considering my decision to leave him off the 53-man roster.

Curtis Marsh – I may have missed it, but don’t think we saw the Nickel Nnam with Marsh joining Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. He mostly played left cornerback with the twos. Marsh had good coverage on wide receiver Toney Clemons, forcing quarterback Jerrod Johnson to throw the ball out of bounds on a designed rollout.

Brandon Hughes – He played right cornerback with the twos, but can’t say I noticed him one way or another. Don’t believe Hughes was targeted. He’s squarely on the roster bubble.

Brandon Boykin – I’ll get to his kickoff return when I do a special-teams review, but Boykin was the nickel corner on the second team. He had a chance to make a tackle on Rainey near the 10 on the 57-yard touchdowns, but couldn’t bring him down. It’s going to be interesting to see if he gets a chance to run with the ones in Hanson’s place at some point in the next few weeks.

Kurt Coleman – He started alongside Jarrett. Safety is an especially difficult position to evaluate off TV, but I thought he played fine. Coleman had three tackles, including one on Redman after a 5-yard gain.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – Not a good performance for the second-year safety. Jarrett bounced off Sanders after a 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-11. He missed a tackle on Brown, allowing him to pick up 6 extra yards in the second. Rainey ran right around him on the 3rd-and-13 draw that picked up a first. Jarrett came flying in and ran into Vinny Curry on Dwyer’s 33-yard run (must-see GIF right here). And he got blocked in the open field by backup lineman John Malecki on Rainey’s 57-yard touchdown. At this point, it’s tough to tell if Jarrett takes poor angles, is just slow, or both. I don’t mean to pile on the guy, but other than the one day at training camp where he looked good, he has not shown signs of contributing since being drafted in the second round.

Oshiomogho Atogwe – Not much action came his way. Atogwe finished with a pair of tackles (one solo). He lined up at safety alongside Jarrett with the second team. If Jarrett continues to struggle and Atogwe can show something, he’ll have a chance to make the team. Of course, there’s also the possibility that both guys make it.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

‘Nickel Nnamdi’ Still Alive And Well

Call it a failed experiment if you will, but the idea of moving Nnamdi Asomugha around last season had some logic to it. With proven talents like Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at your disposal, you can sell the notion of Asomugha as a “rover” to try and create matchup advantages.

This season it’s a tougher product to pedal because Samuel now plays for the Falcons. If you’re going to be moving Asomugha all over the field, who will be playing left cornerback in his absence?

The answer at the moment is Curtis Marsh, who has been seeing plenty of snaps with the first team at training camp.

For a refresher, Marsh was a third-round selection by the Eagles out of Utah State last season. He played running back in college before being converted to corner after his sophomore campaign, and was thought of as a project pick.

That project is apparently on the fast-track, as Juan Castillo seems to be full-steam ahead with his plan to use Asomugha in a variety of ways. That means Marsh – or whoever wins the job — gets thrust into an important role.

“That’s our plan right now – we put [Marsh] in a lot of different packages just so we can try to take advantage of matchups,” said Asomugha. “The more he progresses, the more we’ll be able to do.”

Last season Asomugha played 107 snaps in the slot (roughly 11 percent of the time), which is the exact number of snaps Rodgers-Cromartie saw inside – and he was the starting nickel corner for about half of the year. The results were mixed. There were definitely growing pains early but Asomugha was also effective against tight ends at times. In Week 16, Dallas’ Jason Witten managed just four catches for 26 yards against him, which was his second-lowest output of the season.

The Eagles still see value in putting him in the interior. There’s even a name for the package – the “Nickel Nnam” – where Asomugha slides inside and Marsh gets the call on the oustside.

“I approach it as being a starter because I have to come in and play with the first team in certain situations, so I have to be just as prepared as somebody that’s out there all the time,” said Marsh.

The 6-1, 197-pounder’s athleticism jumps right off the page, and he spent almost the entire offseason in Philadelphia at the NovaCare Complex to work on technique. The results are showing, according to his coaches and peers. Still, he was active for just seven games last season and has almost no real record to go off.

What is the biggest hurdle for Marsh?

“Juan,” Asomugha replied. “He’s got to prove it to Juan, he’s got to prove it to his teammates on gameday…We’ll see how well he is playing and see if we can actually do the packages we want to do.”

Brandon Hughes would seemingly be the next man in if Marsh struggles in the role.

“We like to be able to move Nnamdi around, so there’s some competition there,” said Castillo. “They’ll be plenty of plays, plenty of reps to see who comes out on top.”

Right now the spot belongs to Marsh. Is he up to it?

“I think I’m getting there, I definitely think I’m getting there,” said Marsh, “and I’m ready.”

We’ll find out.

Follow Tim on Twitter or email him at tmcmanus@phillymag.com.

Eagles Practice Observations

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo talks to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.One of the biggest criticisms Juan Castillo faced last year was that he completely misused Nnamdi Asomugha.

Asomugha earned the reputation of being one of the best man corners in the league while in Oakland. But when he arrived last summer, Castillo talked about using him in more of a Charles Woodson-type role. Covering tight ends, playing inside and outside, maybe even back as a safety on a given play or two.

While Castillo tweaked the defense as last season went on, one thing stayed the same: He used Asomugha in a variety of ways.

And based on the first full-squad practice at Lehigh, that’s going to happen in 2012 also.

On one of the first plays today, Asomugha lined up inside against backup tight end Chase Ford. Last year, playing Asmougha inside was simple because the Eagles had Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. But Samuel’s gone, and the new wrinkle today was that Curtis Marsh lined up outside at right cornerback.

Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, played only 13 defensive snaps as a rookie. But with Samuel gone, he’s looking to fill a bigger role in his second season.

“We rotate. We have different guys that do different things well. It’s by gameplan,” Marsh said.

Last year, Asomugha was effective against opposing tight ends. He was matched up against Jason Witten quite a bit, and the Cowboys tight end totaled just 52 yards receiving in two games against the Eagles.

“If you play a team with a really good tight end, we can virtually take that tight end out of the game, so that’s another advantage,” Marsh said.

Of course, this was only the first glimpse of the Eagles’ defense this summer, so there could be plenty of changes ahead.

Some other practice observations…

* Samuel, generally the most vocal player at training camp, is in Atlanta. And it looks like Darryl Tapp will assume the role of Eagle most likely to be heard during practice. “If you want to know who the energy source of our group is at practice, it’s Darryl,” Jim Washburn said earlier this week. Tapp is entering his seventh season, and Cullen Jenkins is entering his ninth, yet they were as enthusiastic as anyone in the 96-degree heat.

* You should take all depth chart notes with a grain of salt, but Derek Landri saw a lot of time with the first-team, alongside Jenkins, in Mike Patterson’s place. Landri played nearly 71 percent of the defensive snaps with the Panthers back in 2010, but many believed he would benefit from fewer snaps with the Eagles. And that turned out to be the case. Landri was an effective rotational player, and his playing time increased towards the end of the season (more than 50 percent of the team’s snaps in each of the last five games).

But if Patterson’s not ready to go when the Eagles play the Browns in Week 1, my money’s still on rookie Fletcher Cox to start alongside Jenkins.

* It looks like Dion Lewis will open camp as the No. 2 running back behind LeSean McCoy.

* The linebackers were lined up as you’d expect: DeMeco Ryans in the middle, Brian Rolle at the WILL and Mychal Kendricks at the SAM. There were quite a few different combinations in nickel: Ryans and Kendricks, Ryans and Rolle, Kendricks and Jamar Chaney. As linebackers coach Mike Caldwell pointed out earlier this week, there will likely be different nickel packages, based on down and distance. So seeing those different combinations is not surprising.

* Casey Matthews was in the middle with the second team. Chaney and Jordan were on the outside.

* Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman were the first-team safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe and Jaiquawn Jarrett running with the second team.

* The second defensive line foursome featured Brandon Graham, Cox, Antonio Dixon and Tapp.

* I didn’t see rookie Brandon Boykin get any reps with the first-team nickel. Aside from the Asomugha/Marsh/Rodgers-Cromartie combination, Joselio Hanson mixed in to his usual spot. The second-team corners were Marsh and Brandon Hughes on the outside, with Boykin in the slot.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

Leading up to the first full-squad practice, our position-by-position preview continues with a look at the Eagles’ cornerbacks.

Save ‘em a spot: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh.

Somewhere along the line, I started to hear the argument that the Eagles’ defense finally started playing well last year when they used Asomugha in man coverage on one side of the field. But that wasn’t really the case. Very late into last season, Asomugha was still being used in a variety of ways, including inside against tight ends.

Yesterday, when veterans arrived, T-Mac asked Asomugha if he still expected to be used in different ways this season, and he said he did. The idea is that Juan Castillo now knows what worked and what didn’t work with him in 2011. But don’t expect Asomugha to just line up on the right side and play man coverage the whole game.

One other nugget to share about Asomugha. While he did not have a good season, opposing quarterbacks still stayed away from him quite a bit. According to Pro Football Focus, Asomugha was targeted about 6.3 percent of the time when he was in coverage. As a point of reference, Asante Samuel was targeted about 12.6 percent of the time. The problem with Asomugha, of course, was that when he was targeted, he gave up too many big plays.

As for Rodgers-Cromartie, he clearly looked more comfortable once the Eagles moved him to the outside, and that’s where he’ll line up in 2012. My guess is you’re going to read a lot of glowing reviews about Rodgers-Cromartie at training camp. But remember, this is the kind of environment in which he gets to show off his top-end speed and athleticism. The problem last year was that he was careless once opposing wide receivers made catches against him, and his tackling was poor.

Considering he’s scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, perhaps this is the year Rodgers-Cromartie will put it all together. But I’m in wait-and-see mode. Remember, the Cardinals were willing to include him in the Kevin Kolb deal even though Rodgers-Cromartie was only 25 and had already made a Pro Bowl.

Boykin, meanwhile, is a lock to make the roster, but will he start out the season as the nickel corner? According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles played nickel about 47 percent of the time last year. It’s up to Boykin to unseat Joselio Hanson and take over that role.

And finally, there’s Marsh. A third-round pick in 2011, he’ll have the inside track on one of the backup jobs, which is important because it means he could be called on should Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie suffer an injury. Marsh only played 13 snaps as a rookie, though, so he’s largely an unknown at this point.

Fighting for a job: Joselio Hanson, Brandon Hughes, Cliff Harris, Trevard Lindley, Wade Bonner.

Hughes saw some action last year, most notably in the Patriots game, but did not play particularly well. He has a good chance to make the roster, but will have to hold off the other names on this list.

As for Hanson, don’t forget that the Eagles cut him last year before eventually bringing him back. He was better than Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot, but did not play particularly well and turns 31 in August. The Eagles know what they have in Hanson. If he happens to make the team and win the nickel corner spot, it will be more of a reflection on what they’re not seeing out of Boykin.

Harris has been a play-maker through the first three days of camp. Assuming the Eagles keep five or six cornerbacks, competition is open, and he could push for a backup spot, especially if Harris is able to contribute on special teams.

Lindley, a fourth-round pick in 2010, and Bonner, an undrafted free agent, are longshots.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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