Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean Versus DRC (And Company)

DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson knows that if the Eagles are to hang with the Broncos on Sunday, their offense is going to have to be in high gear.

“As an offense we just feel like we have to go out there and basically go battle for battle with them, and be able to score as many points as they can and hopefully more,” he said.

The Eagles’ offense cooled off against Kansas City after two strong performances versus Washington and San Diego to open the season. It was no coincidence that Jackson’s game cooled right along with it. He had three catches for 62 yards and was kept out of the end zone Thursday. In the previous two games, he racked up 24 catches, 297 yards and a pair of scores.

“A lot of times guys are focusing on myself. Doing some good things in this offense obviously caused that,” he said. “It’s not a matter where I get frustrated. I understand at times when I run a certain route there might be two guys on me instead of one. I think that will help out the other receivers to be able get open and make big plays to help us win games, so guys aren’t always zoning in on me.”

One defender that could be keying on Jackson regardless is Domininique Rodgers-Cromartie. The former Eagle has been covering the opposition’s top receiver with Champ Bailey (sprained foot) sidelined. Bailey could make his season debut Sunday, but Jackson believes he will be locked up with DRC.

“I’m sure he will probably be on me,” said Jackson. “He is a good friend of mine. The past two years we have been going at it a lot. I know him just as well as he probably knows me, so it will be a great opportunity for both of us to go out there and just compete against each other at a high level. I played against him before he came here, when he was with Arizona. It will be a good challenge for both of us. He’s a good player, I’m a good player so we’ll go out there and fight, battle. We’re friends but once that game starts, I just need to do what I need to do to win the game.”

Chip Kelly was complimentary of Rodgers-Cromartie when asked about the corner on Tuesday, but noted that the Broncos’ safeties do a good job in support. Jackson enters Week 4 as the league’s second-ranked receiver, so it’s a good bet those safeties will not leave DRC out on an island with his former teammate very often.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles’ defense begins its preparations for Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ attack.

Jason Peters is dealing with a finger injury that he believes will be around for the entire year.

Kelly responds to Manning’s comments about the Eagles getting so much extra time to prepare.

The Eagles worked out a linebacker and a receiver recently.

Sheil looks at the offensive line miscues with help from the All-22 tape.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN has the Eagles at No. 23 in its most recent power rankings.

Whatever bump the Eagles got from their nationally televised debut at Washington is gone. After two home losses, both games in which they were favored, the Eagles have slid almost back to where they were in the preseason rankings.

It doesn’t help the Eagles that the win at Washington has been diminished by that team’s ensuing two games. Winless Washington (No. 27) and the New York Giants (No. 29) have the NFC East anchored as the worst division in the NFL so far this season.

Chris Burke of SI.com already has a mock draft up for 2014. He has the Eagles picking 10th, and selecting QB Johnny Manziel.

Mariota is the rather obvious match here — he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and is thriving in the offense Kelly left behind. The MMQB’s Greg Bedard reminded us, though, that Kelly recruited Manziel partially because Johnny Football played in a high school offense similar to Kelly’s attack. This one would be a lot of fun if it happened.

COMING UP

We’ll talk to the coordinators in the morning. Practice starts at 10:50.

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Here are three Eagles-related numbers that matter:

74 – Oregon’s red-zone efficiency (touchdowns scored) from 2010 to 2012. That was second-best in the nation, behind only Wisconsin (78 percent), according to CoachingSearch.com.

Obviously, there will be adjustments to be made in the NFL, but that’s a promising number for the Eagles. Last year, the Birds ranked 28th in the league in red-zone efficiency, and they haven’t been in the top-10 since the Super Bowl year in 2004. Take a look:

 
Percentage TDs
Rank
201244%28th
201151.52%14th
201052.46%16th
200949.06%21st
200847.89%25th
200745.10%25th
200654%12th
200553.66%12th

I’m intrigued by how Kelly will use his personnel in the red zone. For example, we know by now that DeSean Jackson is not a productive red-zone receiver. And it’s not just about size. His skill set does not include making tough, physical catches in traffic. With Jackson, it’s about stretching the field, and that’s negated when the defense can use the back of the end zone as an extra defender.

Jackson has four catches in the red zone in the past two seasons combined. There’s not really a reason for him to be on the field down there, unless he’s being used as a decoy. Perhaps Kelly will use someone like Arrelious Benn to replace him. Or maybe the Eagles will go to 2-TE or 3-TE sets now that they have Brent Celek, James Casey and Zach Ertz in the fold.

If the team practices red zone during one of the practice sessions we’re allowed to attend, I’ll keep an eye on this.

And thanks to friend of the blog Sam Lynch for the CoachingSearch.com link.

8.5 – The percentage of plays in which the Eagles’ defense missed a tackle in 2012, according to Football Outsiders. That was the highest mark in the league. In 2011, the Eagles’ number was 8.1 percent, which was second-to-last.

The numbers are broken down by individual players too. For example, rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks missed 15.1 percent of his tackle attempts, the worst mark among linebackers.

And the numbers in the secondary back up what you saw with your eyes on a weekly basis. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen were among the 10 worst tackling defensive backs in the NFL (no other team had more than one DB listed).

Rodgers-Cromartie missed 20.7 percent of his tackles, third-worst. Allen missed 16.4 percent, fifth-worst. And Asomugha missed 13.8 percent, 10th-worst.

The good news? Free-agent signee Cary Williams was among the best tacklers. He missed just 2.7 percent of his attempts, tied for third-best.

We spend plenty of time talking about scheme, but the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling simply have to get better with this team.

26.5 – The number of seconds in between plays for the Eagles last year. Chase Stuart of Football Perspective did the leg-work, using time of possession and total number of plays to come up with a metric for tempo. And surprisingly, the Eagles ran the fourth-fastest offense in the league in 2012, behind only the Patriots (24.9 seconds), Saints (26.1) and Ravens (26.4).

Part of the Eagles’ tempo relates to the fact that they were often trailing in the second half. But there were weeks when the no-huddle was a part of the game-plan. Sometimes, it was a very slow-moving no-huddle, while other times the Eagles pushed tempo.

Chip Kelly has been quick to point out that the Eagles might not always go at a fast pace, but they want to have that option in their back pocket.

“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “It’s a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four‑second plays. So once the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We’re just trying to force them to – everything we do has to kind of be ‑ reflect what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four‑second play.  You need to have that kind of (snapping fingers) to get that done, so I think that’s why we’re practicing like that.”

Stuart’s chart also shows that using an up-tempo offense is not a new phenomenon. He goes back to 1991 and shows that four of the five fastest offenses of the last 21 years were teams that played in the 1990s. Three were the Buffalo Bills (1991, 1992, 1993), and the other was the 1995 Patriots.

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Roundup: Eagles Reportedly Interested In DL Martin

A bunch of notes to get to on this Saturday…

Let’s start with free agency. While the Eagles have already made their major moves, they’ll continue to keep their eyes open for value plays. One area where they could use some bodies is on the defensive line. The Eagles added nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, but don’t have a lot of versatile pieces (outside of Fletcher Cox).

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that they’ve shown interest in Chargers defensive lineman Vaughn Martin. Originally a fourth-round pick in 2009, Martin (6-4, 297) fits what the Eagles are looking for. He has size, versatility and is only 26-years-old.

Martin would be a defensive end option in a 3-4 and would play defensive tackle in 4-3 fronts. In 2012, Martin had 19 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. He played 58 percent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

NASSIB AHEAD OF SMITH?

Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently said on NFL Network that he has Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib ranked ahead of West Virginia’s Geno Smith. Per Rotoworld:

Cosell cited Geno Smith’s “slow eyes” in terms of anticipation and “ball location” on intermediate to deep throws as reasons for concern. “My No. 1 quarterback based on the film study I’ve done is Ryan Nassib,” Cosell said. “I liked him overall more than Geno Smith. I think he’s a much more precise intermediate thrower. I think the ball comes out with a little better velocity at the intermediate level. And I think he’s a little more accurate. And I like his footwork a little bit better.”

Meanwhile, Andy Reid and Chiefs GM John Dorsey traveled to Texas A&M to work out offensive tackle Luke Joeckel earlier this week, according to Adam Caplan.

Kansas City is doing its homework on all of the top tackles. Reid and company have workouts scheduled with Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson as well, according to the Detroit Free Press.

EXPECTATIONS FOR DRC

Broncos head coach John Fox was very candid about his expectations for former Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“It’s our job to get the most of it out of him, just like anybody that had him before,” Fox said, per Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post. “We’ll see how that goes, how hard he’s willing to work and adapt to what we’re teaching him.

“You turn on a 60-play tape and 30 of the plays he does you can’t coach. And 30 of those plays you’re maybe not so happy with. And that’s probably why he’s on his third team. But at the end of the day he’s got the skill set. We really like him. We were very up front with him. He understands.”

The Broncos signed Rodgers-Cromartie to a one-year deal.
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What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.

ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano thinks the Eagles should make a play for Darrelle Revis:

With eight picks in the upcoming draft and about $33 million in salary cap room right now ($44 million if they cut Asomugha), the Eagles have the wherewithal to make any move they want. Assuming the Jets are as motivated as they seem to be to trade Revis, the Eagles might be able to get him with a package led by their high third-round pick. That’s a better pick than the Jets are likely to get as compensation if Revis leaves via free agency next year, and if the Jets wait for that to happen, Revis could end up signing with the Patriots and terrorizing the Jets twice a season for the rest of his career.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com thinks 49ers safety Dashon Goldson would be a nice addition for the Eagles:

The Eagles’ secondary has been a real problem. The draft is a great tool, but Philly could potentially use three new players in the secondary; in order for it to get better, some work must be done in free agency. Nnamdi Asomugha could be cut. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. The safety position is no great shakes, either. Philadelphia’s back four made every quarterback — save for maybe Brandon Weeden — look like the love child of Aaron Rodgers and Dan Fouts, allowing 33 touchdown passes while picking off just eight. That’s unbelievable futility. Philadelphia has more than $30 million in cap space. Perhaps making a push to sign safety Dashon Goldson might be the first, most appropriate move (although signing Ed Reed would be cool, too).

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 29th on his list of free agents:

It’s not a great sign that two teams have seemingly given up on DRC in his young career. But how much cash would he have commanded if on the market after his second pro season?

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has Rodgers-Cromartie 19th:

He wasn’t great last season, but he has a ton of athletic ability. It’s almost as if people are waiting for it to show.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com offers up his free-agency plan for the Birds:

The Eagles haven’t had a quality safety since Brian Dawkins left four years ago, and while this draft is loaded at the position I might start there when looking for veteran help. There is quality up and down the line, with someone young like a Chris Clemons of Miami or William Moore of Atlanta available. Of course, so is San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson, but reports have him seeking $8 million a year. Plus, he turns 29 in May. They could look for cornerback help here, too, with guys like Shaun Smith, Cary Williams or Greg Toler expected to hit the market.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports has the Eagles taking Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth pick:

Johnson’s stock has been rising since a dominant Senior Bowl, and his combine tests proved what he already knew — he’s a very mobile lineman with freakish athletic tendencies. New head coach Chip Kelly may adapt some of his Oregon offensive principles for the NFL, but don’t expect him to stray from the idea of a multiple zone-blocking system that provides optimal flexibility. Perhaps more than any other lineman in this class, Johnson has the pure athleticism to bring it in Kelly’s schemes.

Chris Burke of SI.com includes Rodgers-Cromartie on his list of free agents who hurt their value in 2012:

Let’s just say that things never really worked out for DRC in Philadelphia. He was looked upon as one of the game’s premier young cornerbacks when the Eagles acquired him in that Kevin Kolb trade. Two years later, he’s probably in the second-tier of available corners.

Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus calls Nnamdi Asomugha one of the most over-valued players in the NFL:

Safe to say the Eagles didn’t really get what they were expecting out of Asomugha. Looking a step slower, Asomugha gave up completions on 66.7 percent of balls into his coverage, with five of those being touchdowns. His 15.9 yards per reception allowed was the seventh-highest in the league as he struggled to keep up with the NFL’s top receivers.

Dave Dameshek of NFL.com includes Michael Vick on his list of quarterbacks who can’t win the Super Bowl:

Not even Vick can delude himself into believing he’s anything more than a placeholder in new coach Chip Kelly’s system.

Obstacle: Inaccuracy; slowing foot speed; never-ending string of injuries.

Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com looks at the QB outlook for all 32 teams:

Vick agreed to a restructured contract to play under new head coach Chip Kelly, whose wide-open offensive system may be a better fit for him than Reid’s West Coast-style scheme. Foles isn’t as athletic as Vick, but the Eagles feel strongly enough about his potential that overtures about a potential trade to Kansas City where Reid is now head coach were rebuffed.

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Which Eagles Free Agents Will Be Back?

Philadelphia Eagles LB Akeem JordanWe’ve started to preview free agency in the past few days with breakdowns of the cornerbacks and the safeties.

And we’ll continue to look at other positions the rest of the week. But for now, here’s a peek at the Eagles’ own pending free agents, with some thoughts on who could be back.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – As you know by now, the Eagles chose to not franchise Rodgers-Cromartie. He has size, speed and a Pro Bowl under his belt, yet Rodgers-Cromartie seems destined to be on his third team in four years. Given the cornerback depth in free agency, it’ll be interesting to see what the demand is like for DRC. There could be a slim chance that the Eagles consider a short-term deal after letting him test the market. But more likely, another team will see his age and talent and take a shot on him.

Jake Scott – He was out of the league until the Eagles’ ninth game of the season in 2012. But Scott got seven starts at right guard, taking over for Danny Watkins. While he wouldn’t be a bad option for depth/competition, my guess is the Eagles will go with a younger option. Scott turns 32 next month.

Derek Landri - He was really good in 2011, but that production did not carry over to last season. Landri was part of the defensive tackle rotation (46.1 percent of the snaps, per Pro Football Focus), but didn’t have a sack all year. Even though he had seven tackles for loss, Landri struggled against the run also. I would be surprised if the Eagles brought the 29-year-old back.

King Dunlap – I’ve seen arguments by people who think he deserves a legitimate shot to start somewhere, and I have to disagree. Dunlap, a seventh-round pick in 2008, deserves credit for having stayed in the league this long. He’s a complete non-factor as a run blocker and had nine penalties, tied for the most among Eagles offensive players. Dunlap demonstrated competency as a pass blocker on occasion, but it’s highly unlikely that his body could hold up as a 16-game starter. The 27-year-old will look to find a roster spot elsewhere.

Akeem Jordan – It seems like the Eagles try to get rid of him every year, and he just keeps finding his way back on to the 53-man roster at the end of training camp. Jordan has played in 82 games the past six seasons for the Eagles. Last year, he ranked third in special-teams points and led the Birds with 15 special-teams tackles. Jordan played 36.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last year, per PFF. Even though it feels like Jordan has been around for awhile, he’s only 27. Right now, the Eagles only have two linebacker spots nailed down with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. The likelihood is that Jordan will be gone, but depending on what the Eagles do in free agency and the draft, perhaps he could get another look as a depth/special teams option.

Darryl Tapp – I think we can safely say the Seahawks got the better of this trade. The Eagles sent Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Tapp back in 2010. Tapp has had six sacks in 39 games with the Eagles as a rotational defensive end. Clemons has 33.5 sacks in 48 games as a key member of the Seahawks’ defense. Tapp played 28.5 percent of the Eagles’ snaps, per PFF, but managed just half-a-sack and eight hurries. At 28, he’ll try to catch on elsewhere.

Jon Dorenbos – I’ll admit to not knowing the intricacies of the long-snapper market these days. Dorenbos turns 33 in July and has appeared in 101 games in seven years for the Eagles.

Colt Anderson – He’s the only restricted free agent in this group, meaning the Eagles can match other teams’ offers. Of the eight players listed, Anderson is the most likely to be back. He battled back from a torn ACL, led the team in special teams points and was OK in four starts at safety towards the end of the year. If Chip Kelly is making special teams a priority, he’ll hold on to Anderson as the team’s fourth safety.

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The Eagles’ Options At Cornerback

One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason tasks will be rebuilding a broken secondary that failed to meet expectations in each of the past two years.

The first step of that process is evaluating the current personnel – most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent, and according to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles will not use the franchise tag on him. The one-year designation would cost the Eagles about $10.7 million. And the two-week window to use the franchise tag starts today.

At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie has plenty of things going for him. He’s young, has tremendous athletic ability, has flashed a Pro Bowl ceiling and appears to be a good teammate. New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis coached Rodgers-Cromartie when he earned the Pro Bowl berth in 2009.

On the flip side, his tape fails to match up to his talent level. Rodgers-Cromartie lacks physicality, is a terrible tackler and gives up too many big plays. If the Eagles want him back, they could try to work out a long-term deal before Rodgers-Cromartie is able to test the market on March 12. If he’s not signed by that time, chances are another team will swoop in.

Asomugha, meanwhile, turns 32 in July. His current contract calls for a $15 million base salary in 2013. That’s not happening. The Eagles can either re-structure Asomugha’s deal or release him, which would cost $4 million. Given his struggles, my guess is they’ll let Asomugha walk. But as always, the decision depends on the market.

We’ll have more in-depth breakdowns of the free-agent options as March 12 nears, but Rotoworld has a good list up for now. Aqib Talib has had off-the-field issues, but started for the Patriots last year. Atlanta’s Brent Grimes is recovering from an Achilles’ injury and might sign a one-year deal before trying to cash in next offseason, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sean Smith, 25, has started 56 games the last four seasons, but he could be tagged by the Dolphins. Detroit’s Chris Houston (28) has 78 career starts under his belt.

Jacksonville’s Derek Cox (26), Baltimore’s Cary Williams (28) and Tampa’s E.J. Biggers (25) are all scheduled to be free agents.

As for the draft, some project Alabama’s Dee Milliner to the Eagles at No. 4, but as Mike Mayock of NFL Network pointed out, he’ll need to prove he’s got the speed worthy of such a high pick at the Combine. The Eagles could certainly look to add a corner in the first three rounds like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Washington’s Desmond Trufant, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

The team’s final option would be to promote from within. Brandon Boykin (5-9) played well last year, and while he saw some time on the outside, he was used primarily in the slot. He could be given an opportunity for more playing time in 2013, although if Chip Kelly favors length on defense, Boykin will probably stay put.

Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, could get a look too, although he’s pretty much an unknown, having played just 62 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

As moves continue to be made around the league, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Eagles’ options are when free agency starts three weeks from now.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Kelly’s Offseason To-Do List

With the conclusion of last night’s Super Bowl, we now have about seven months until we get to watch another NFL game.

That’s a depressing thought.

But the good news is the offseason officially begins today. And for the Eagles, the next few months will go a long way in determining the direction of the franchise. The man in focus is new head coach Chip Kelly.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a simple to-do list with what’s coming up between now and the draft.

Finalize the coaching staff – Many, but not all, of the pieces are in place. Most notably, defensive coordinator appears to be up in the air. Has Kelly targeted 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell? Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino? Is he pulling someone from the college ranks, but waiting for National Signing Day (Feb. 6)? All those options appear to be in play. Kelly still needs to name an offensive line coach too. The guess would be that these hires are finalized sometime this week.

Evaluate current personnel/free agents – The following Eagles are scheduled to be free agents: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Colt Anderson, Darryl Tapp, King Dunlap, Jon DorenbosJake Scott, Derek Landri and Akeem Jordan. The priority name there is Rodgers-Cromartie. If Kelly wants him back, Howie Roseman can begin contract negotiations before Rodgers-Cromartie officially becomes a free agent and can test the market (of course, that’s assuming he wants to return). As for the other seven players, the Eagles would be wise to bring Anderson back as a special-teams ace and backup safety. There are players under contract like Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Vick that Kelly will have to decide on as well.

Devise a plan for the QB position – I get the sense Kelly is going to watch every throw Nick Foles and Vick made last year before forming his opinion. My guess is that Vick will be released, although according to reports, there is not the same rush to make a move as was previously thought. The free-agent pool is thin, but the Eagles could explore a trade for someone like Alex Smith. With other teams like the Browns and Chiefs in the market for a QB, there could be a healthy market for Smith, which would play into the Niners’ hands in terms of compensation.

Prepare for free agency and the draft – The process here has already begun. Kelly, Roseman, scouts and assistants were down in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl. The next big event is the combine in Indy on Feb. 20. After that, the Eagles will host players for official visits before the draft on April 25.

As for free agency, players are allowed to start signing with new teams on March 12 at 4 p.m. By that time, the Eagles will have made decisions on some of their own players (Vick, Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, etc.) and will have their targets ready. A key here could be if the Eagles switch to a 3-4. Either way, though, they’ll need to add key pieces on defense.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Did the Eagles make a play for Alex Smith last year?

DeSean Jackson says Kelly is going to have defensive coordinators going crazy.

The Eagles won’t be going back to kelly green any time soon. McManus explains why.

What kind of player can the Eagles expect with the No. 4 pick? A look at the last 10.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Chad Hall, who finished the season with the 49ers, doesn’t think the Eagles treated him fairly. From ESPN.com:

“I felt that they weren’t as honest as they could have been,” he says, walking past the Famous Door club, where a cover band is playing “Born to Run.” “They didn’t give me a chance in the returner role. The special teams coach said, ‘We like you. We know what you can do.’ But that’s the business side. They tell you one thing, and then …

“I felt that I had to get other eyes on me.”

Over at IgglesBlitz.com, Tommy Lawlor offers his thoughts on Asomugha’s future:

I’m sure Nnamdi would be willing to take a pay cut so he could stay here.  I just don’t think Chip Kelly will want him.  He’s not getting a top player.  He’s not getting a leader.  If anything, Nnamdi has a sense of entitlement from his career.  No one disputes that he was a top CB in Oakland.  The problem is that things have changed.  The talent is gone, but Nnamdi still acts as if he’s an elite player.  You can get away with certain things when you’re a star.  You can’t do that when you start to fade.  As of December 2012, Nnamdi hadn’t realized this.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Nnamdi Willing To Cut His Pay?

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Nnamdi Asomugha was asked on Wednesday how important it is to him that he stays in Eagles green beyond this season. The question was tied to his sizable contract, and the reality that changes surely are ahead.

“I think really important. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” said Asomugha.

So you would make decisions potentially coming from that stance? If sacrifices were asked to be made?

“Yeah, I mean all I can say right now is I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he replied. “I definitely want to be back here.”

And with that, we have our first indicator that Asomugha could be open to restructuring his deal.

The 31-year-old defensive back inked a five-year, $60 million contract prior to the 2011 season. He is scheduled to make $15 million next year, $4 million of which is guaranteed. A paycheck that fat may have made sense when he was billed as one of the very best cover corners in the league, but it is out of whack after two seasons of unmet expectations. It is difficult to envision any team paying him that much.

While Asomugha is under contract, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be an unrestricted free agent. Keep neither? One? Both?  The Eagles are facing some big decisions when it comes to the cornerback position.

Many have wondered whether Asomugha wants  to be in Philadelphia. He was under less scrutiny in Oakland, after all, and fully admitted that coming here from the West Coast was quite the adjustment. But Asomugha says he wants to stay put, holding onto the belief that progress is being made both in his game and as a defense overall.

“I think the comfort level has always gotten better and gotten better,” he said. “What we’re doing now has kind of helped everyone’s comfort level, especially mine from what we were doing once the bye week ended. I think we finally jelled over the last two, three weeks on defense.”

We have seen improved play in the secondary since the Eagles moved on from Jim Washburn and his Wide-9 scheme. In six weeks with Bowles as defensive coordinator and Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles allowed opponents to complete 76 percent of their passes. In the past two weeks minus Washburn, that number is 44 percent. The opposing quarterbacks (Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman) have not been as potent of late, granted, but that’s a dramatic change regardless.

One thing that some of these veterans will have to come to terms with is that a good deal of the hard work will be undone as a result of a new coaching staff coming in.

“I haven’t really thought about that much, just because you never know what is going to happen. We’ve made some good strides, though, with what we’ve been doing, so that’s always good to build off of,” said Asomugha. “But when it all changes around you’re kind of starting all over.”

As it stands right now, Asomugha sounds like he wants to remain in Philadelphia regardless.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Scratch David Shaw off your wish list. He is staying at Stanford.

Nate Allen‘s demotion is just another hurdle for the 2010 draft class.

Andy Reid explains his reasoning in starting LeSean McCoy Sunday.

Just how in demand is the Eagles’ head coaching job?

Sheil explains why the offseason plans should not center around Nick Foles.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Ian Rappaport of NFL.com says that Michael Vick has eyes for Chip Kelly:

Sources who have spoken to Michael Vick say the veteran quarterback believes he has another four years left in the NFL and wants to be a starter with whatever team signs him in the event he is released by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Those sources also said Vick would not want to join the New York Jets if Mark Sanchez still is the starter, but he would consider signing with the Jets if he were paid more than Sanchez, making it clear that Vick was the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart.

Aside from the Jets, the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns are mentioned as possibilities.

The sources close to Vick said he might wait to see if Oregon coach Chip Kelly decides to take an NFL coaching job in the offseason, adding that Vick already has imagined himself playing in Kelly’s fast-paced spread offense.

Mike Shanahan told the Philadelphia media that RGIII practiced at “full speed” Wednesday. Barring a setback, it looks like he’ll get the nod on Sunday. Those who watched practice said the rookie “looked smooth.”

COMING UP

Eagles continue to get ready for the Redskins. Marty Mornhinweg and Todd Bowles will address the media.

Five Eagles Numbers That Matter

With two games left, here are five Eagles numbers that matter.

109 – The number of solo tackles by DeMeco Ryans, according to team stats tracked by Eagles coaches. During Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure, only two players have had more in a single season: Quintin Mikell (2008) and Brian Dawkins (2006). Both safeties had 111 solo tackles. Barring injury, Ryans is pretty much a lock to set a new mark in the final two games. He has 15 tackles for loss, which is already the most of any player under Reid. The Eagles have gotten several moves wrong in the past two seasons. Acquiring Ryans from the Texans was not one of them. When he first arrived, the question was: Is Ryans a three-down player? The answer has been a resounding yes as he’s stayed on the field for 99.7 percent of the team’s snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. When discussing the Eagles’ building blocks going forward, don’t forget to include Ryans. He’s only 28 and appears to have plenty of good years left.

5.5 – The number of sacks by Fletcher Cox. According to NFL.com, only three defensive tackles have more – Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins (10.5), Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh (6.5) and Chicago’s Henry Melton (6.0). Cox is tied for the team lead in sacks and leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 62 tackles (44 solo). It’s not even that close either – Trent Cole is second with 52 (30). Cox has already shown that he can be a high-quality 4-3 defensive tackle. If the Eagles switch to a 3-4 in the offseason, he’d likely get a chance to play defensive end. Granted, it’s only his rookie season, but it’s clear Cox has a Pro Bowl ceiling.

121 – The number of times Reid has walked onto the field at either the Vet or the Linc as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (playoffs included). As Tim pointed out this morning, barring a monumental upset, Reid will coach his final home game here Sunday afternoon when the Birds host the Redskins. For weeks now, fans have been lectured by the national media about how it’s going to miss Reid when he’s gone. Many paint the picture of an angry, unreasonable fan base forcing Reid out of town.

I don’t think that’s really fair. Here’s the point everyone seems to constantly miss: You can appreciate what Reid has accomplished in his career here while still believing it’s time to move on. As someone who hears from fans through several different mediums – e-mail, social media, our comments section, Birds 24/7 Radio – I really believe that’s how the majority of people feel. They remember what things were like under Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and others. They enjoyed several great moments in the last 14 years that included five trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth.

But they also see a franchise that is 12-18 since the start of the 2011 season. One that has missed out on the playoffs in four of the last eight seasons. One that will have gone four years without a playoff win and has just three in the last eight seasons. It’s been a good run, but unless Jeffrey Lurie plans on letting Reid coach for as long as he wants, now is the time to part ways.

72 – The number of of turnovers the Eagles have committed since the start of the 2011 season. That’s the most in the NFL. Think about that – 2.4 turnovers per game over a 30-game span. We kept wondering whether things would level out a bit, and they never did – 38 giveaways last year, 34 in 14 games this season. The defense hasn’t done its part either. The Eagles’ 12 takeaways are tied for 31st. Overall, the numbers translate to a -22 turnover differential, which explains why this team has struggled so badly.

11 – The number of penalties committed by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks tied for first among NFL cornerbacks. We’ve written about Rodgers-Cromartie in this space quite a bit. After quarterback, he’s probably going to be the Eagles’ toughest evaluation this offseason. I was looking at some cornerback contracts handed out last offseason. Lardarius Webb got a six-year deal for $52.7M ($10M guaranteed) from the Ravens. Brandon Carr got five years, $50.1M ($25.5M guaranteed) from the Cowboys. Cortland Finnegan got five years, $50M ($27M guaranteed) from the Rams. And Carlos Rogers got $29.3M over four years from the 49ers. Rogers was the only one in that group who was 30 or older. Rodgers-Cromartie is only 26. And despite his flaws, he’s likely to get a sweet deal if he tests free agency.

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