Not that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a wallflower. The green mohawk and hot pink and blue car don’t exactly scream introvert. But, aside from a random scream about-what-I’m-not-sure to no one in particular in the locker room, DRC has not been all that vocal since arriving from Arizona via trade last offseason.
As such, it caught some of his teammates off guard when he spoke up at Wednesday’s players-only meeting.
“Yeah, because I don’t really say much. I’m not into the talking game,” said Rodgers-Cromartie on Friday. “I just believe in going out and playing ball, regardless of what goes on. Not a lot to be said.”
So why choose to talk at the meeting?
Through three quarters, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense possessed the ball six times. And on all six occasions, they ended up with points – three touchdowns and three field goals.
“We ran the same things,” Bowles said, an answer that many players backed up. “The guys have to play… the coaches have to coach. We didn’t coach it good. We didn’t play it good, and they beat us. They deserve all the credit in the world.”
Though it may have some truth to it and even come from a good place, it sure can sound like blame-shifting after a while. As in, Juan was the issue and the issue is gone, so we can now realize our potential with Todd Bowles at the helm.
Not everybody is on board with the notion that Castillo was a hindrance, or buying into the “predictability” line of defense when rationalizing back-to-back fourth-quarter lapses.
While many of the Eagles defenders said after the game that they’d have to look at the film to figure out what exactly went wrong, Nnamdi Asomugha was more forthcoming. He told Tim and some other reporters that a couple things changed.
One, the defense switched up how it covered Calvin Johnson. For much of the game, Asomugha was on Johnson with safety help. And he did an excellent job. But in the fourth, the Eagles used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson and also played some zone.
The other point Asomugha made was that the Eagles blitzed more late in the game, and it cost them. But was that really the case?
“I like the grit of this football team. I like the toughness of this football team,” said Reid. “They’re a competitive and tough bunch.”
That was the identity being cultivated through the better part of five games. Michael Vick engineered three game-winning drives; the defense successfully protected each lead. They stood toe-to-toe with the bully Ravens. Took down the Super Bowl champion Giants. A tough loss on the road to the Steelers? Given Pittsburgh’s level of desperation, acceptable.
The loss to the Lions puts everything into question. Detroit jabbed the Eagles in the nose, ripped the win from their loose grip, and pushed them to the ground for good measure.
The plan heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions was to switch up the looks on Calvin Johnson to keep him guessing. That tactic was used sparingly early on. By our count, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lined up over Johnson just three times in the first half. Nnamdi Asomugha was in charge of Megatron the rest of the time.
Johnson ended the half with one catch for 28 yards.
“I was on him most of the game,” said Asomugha. “I think when we got to the fourth quarter there was a lot more trying to give him a different look, give him something else so that he doesn’t get comfortable with one guy. There were sometimes, especially in the fourth quarter, when Dominique would go to him.”
Right now it’s difficult to build a case that Asomugha is earning his paycheck, considering what Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is doing on the other side of the field. DRC’s numbers are better, and he’s making considerably less coin.
Take a look at the side-by-side comparison of the two corners.
“I flip the book open and I look at each receiver. I look at speed first, that’s the first thing I do, and I see what they ran in the 40,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “Then I look at the statistics and see how many times they’ve been thrown at.”
And what does Calvin Johnson clock in at?
“He is 4.38. Everybody else 4.5 or plus,” said Rodgers-Cromartie.
That might not be entirely the right question, because it won’t be a solo mission.
“There’s only been like, not even 10 to 15 snaps this year where I’ve had one-on-one [coverage] or something like it,” said Johnson.
When Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came up with the interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, he (against better judgment) declined to take a knee and instead looped to his left and up the sidelines before being forced out at the nine-yard line. The Pro-Bowl corner then made his way through the sea of leaping green and settled in near midfield.
All the while, Juan Castillo was tracking him.
Three different cornerbacks — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin and then Nnamdi Asomugha — took turns lining up over Larry Fitzgerald on the Cardinals’ first three plays from scrimmage. It was immediately evident that trying to contain the star receiver would be a group assignment.
That wasn’t the initial plan, however, as Asomugha laid out afterwards.
“We came into the week, I was going to shadow him,” said Asomugha. “We kind of had an idea, I think Coach [Todd] Bowles had an idea that that’s what they were figuring, so they were going to move him and put him in all sorts of different places. So we said let’s just let’s just stay on our sides and make sure that Boykin is at the nickel, keep Dominique on the outside. That was our plan, and they were able to do some things to take advantage of it.”