Nnamdi promises better days are ahead


OK, stop it already. Its not like Nnamdi is Izel Jenkins.

Has he been the most dominating cornerback in the NFL his first few weeks with the Eagles? Not really. Did he have a rough game against the Giants? No question. Has he paid dividends on the 60 million contract? Not yet.

Still, some of the criticisms of Nnamdi Asomugha that have been floating around the past week are over the top.

Three games into a five-year contract? Just a little bit early to call him a free agent bust.

Its not my first rodeo, lets say, Asomugha said at his locker Friday. Ive had enough years in it to know that you have ups and downs in games and certain times you make it, certain times you dont, but you have more ups than you do downs. Its just the position we play, your downs are always going to be magnified.

Asomugha had a role in two Eli Manning touchdown passes to unheralded Victor Cruz Sunday in the Giants 29-16 win at the Linc. He had a shot to tackle Cruz early on his 74-yard TD in the first quarter, but the blame really belonged to safety Kurt Coleman. But on Cruzs fourth-quarter TD, the game-winner, he just had poor position along the goal-line, along with safety Jarrad Page.

Certainly expectations were extraordinarily high when the Eagles made Asomugha the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.

All in due time, the former Raider said.

Everything gets better the more you do it, he said. Obviously, you want it to be perfect the first time that you do it, but unfortunately, thats not how it goes. I think as we go along things will get better for us individually and for us as a defense as a whole.

Theres been a groundswell of opinion among some fans and some NFL analysts that Asomugha is miscast in the Eagles defense, which demands that cornerbacks play a mixture of zone and man.

Im glad I dont watch, he said with a laugh. Ill tell you that much.

During his eight years in Oakland, Asomugha played almost exclusively man-to-man. This is his first foray into a combo defense where hes asked to play an assortment of coverages and in various positions.

It was a lot of man in Oakland, he said. We played zone at times but there would be games when youd go the entire game and your job was just to shut down the guy that was in front of you.

Our zones here arent necessarily your traditional zones. ... There are a lot of matching-up aspects to the zone. Its not as easy as just going to play Cover 2. Its different.

So how does Asomugha fit into Juan Castillos defensewhich is essentially Jim Johnsons defense with the linemen lining up a bit differently?

Is he really not suited to play zone?

He just laughs.

Its all football, he said. My first interception this year was in a zone. I dont know. Its just funny. One catch is given up in a zone and now all of a sudden you shouldnt be playing a zone, you should be playing man. So, you know, its football and, like I said, well continue to get better at it. I know what I can do.

And hes doing a lot more here than in Oakland. The Eagles thinking is that once Asomugha masters the defense, hell be an even more effective player than he was with the Raiders.

Here, youre learning new things because theyre putting you in different situations, different spots, he said. Ive played the slot this year, Ive played on tight ends, Ive played free safety, Ive played corner. Its a lot more than just going out there and playing man.

Asomugha recorded his first interception as an Eagle against the Falcons. But it was kind of lost in the flurry of Matt Ryans four-touchdown performance, one that was duplicated a week later by Eli Manning.

That was the first time in 22 years the Eagles have allowed four TD passes in consecutive games.

Not what anybody expected when the Eagles built a secondary with three Pro Bowl corners and a defensive line with two Pro Bowl ends.

I think that its coming along, he said. We would like it to be much better than it is right now as far as everybody being on the same page, but I guess those things are to be expected.

There are still (new) things now and then. If an offense gets you in a certain situation that as a defense we havent fully gone over or something like that, it can be tough, so you just have to figure it out on the run. The basic stuff, weve got it down, but we havent seen every combination, every formation, every route, so were not going to be as sharp on everything until we start getting into all of those different things.

The Eagles on Sunday face a 49ers team ranked last in the NFL in offense, 30th running the ball and 28th throwing the ball. The Niners have only scored five offensive touchdowns in three games.

The Eagles are actually 12th in the NFL in overall defense but 30th against the run.

If they can slow down tight end Vernon Davis and tailback Frank Gore, the Eagles should be in good shape Sunday.

Then again, they should have been in good shape against the Falcons and Giants, too.

Well try to give them as many different looks as we can with (Davis), Asomugha said. Theyve got some receivers that can play as well. We still have to stop the run, which Gore throughout his career has done well at.

Until you can stop the run its going to limit a lot of things that you can do, to be honest. Once they have to start passing then you can start mixing it up. Our No. 1 focus right now is stop the run and see what we can do after that.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

Contact Us