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.”
And at least part of their anger was directed at the replacement officials.
A couple plays, in particular, frustrated Ravens players. The first was the Michael Vick fumble that was overturned on the Eagles’ game-winning drive. It seemed that Vick’s arm was going forward as he tried to throw the ball away, but Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t see it that way.
Down 24-23, all they needed was a field goal. Their kicker, Justin Tucker, had already nailed a 48-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 56-yarder earlier in the game.
Many of the players who took the field for the Eagles’ defense were familiar with this situation. Last season, in five of the team’s eight losses, the Eagles had the lead going into the fourth quarter. And in the final 15 minutes of those games, they were outscored, 60-3.
But one of the players who wasn’t in Philadelphia last year is DeMeco Ryans. And while there are many reasons why the defense has come through at the end of the team’s final two games, the stability provided by the middle linebacker is certainly one of them.
Funny, Juan Castillo was the least talked-about man at the NovaCare facilities this week. While Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid and Michael Vick were taking arrows, and DeMeco Ryans and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were being praised, Castillo quietly slipped into the backdrop.
He offers so little at his press conferences, terrified of giving away anything that could help the opposition, that some reporters have given up on the exercise altogether, opting instead to visit the locker room in search of a more willing dance partner. So Castillo sits on stage in front of a modest gathering, speaks about exactly nothing for a few minutes, and then makes his way out of the auditorium and back behind the scenes.
After a year of public struggles and endless criticism, this is undoubtedly the preferred existence. A down effort against the Ravens will bring some of the heat back, but internally there is a sense that the situation has stabilized. The players have noticed a different Juan Castillo in Year Two, and it has had a ripple effect.
The NFL gave football geeks everywhere our wish this offseason, announcing it would release All-22 coaches’ film to the public (for a small fee, of course).
Unlike TV footage, the All-22 angles account for every player on the field on any given play.
I took a look at the coaches’ tape and came away with some new observations from Sunday’s Eagles-Browns game. We’ll start with the defense here and post offensive observations next.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with his hot pink-rimmed glasses resting a click south of his green mowhawk, 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: oppostites attract, so I’m good with it. He’s good with it.”
The key similarity is that they are both press corners.