Eagles' Asomugha adapting to new duties

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Eagles' Asomugha adapting to new duties

FOXBORO When it comes to playing in the NFL, there's a certain amount of thought that has to go into being great.

But too much thinking is not a good thing, something Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha knows all too well.

The Pro Bowl cornerback, in his first season with the Eagles, has not had nearly as big an impact as many expected. It has little to do with talent and everything to do with you got it, thinking too much.

A lot of that has to do with the Eagles, who signed him to a five-year, 60 million contract in the offseason, heaping a hefty load of responsibilities on his shoulders - far more responsibilities than he had in Oakland.

"We've asked him to do a ton," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

And the added weight of those responsibilities, has played a role in him not being the immediate difference-maker they were banking on this season.

"In Oakland, it was just, you line up on that guy and you take him out of the game," Asomugha said. "So that's where your study was; that's where all your focus was.

In Philadelphia, their defensive schemes are much more involved.

"Now, there are different matchup issues all over the field," Asomugha said.

It didn't help matters that the NFL lockout wiped out most of the usual preseason training sessions, which put Asomugha even further behind the learning curve. While his primary position is cornerback, Asomugha said it's not unusual for certain schemes to have him lineup at nickel-back, dime, free safety, strong safety and even linebacker.

"That's been the biggest challenge," he said. "Just figuring out what my responsibility is based off the position that I'm playing. But I've gotten better as the season has gone."

For the season, he has 24 tackles and three interceptions.

Asomugha added, "being a football player, you got instincts that you can just go off of, regardless of what position you're in based off the coverages and the different things that we're doing. That was the early challenge, being able to understand how you fit based off that particular scheme or that particular coverage."

Even though the Eagles and Asomugha know he's at his best when he's in straight man-to-man coverage, it might have made more sense for the Eagles to tweak what they do defensively in order for Asomugha to be in position to do what he does best.

"You have to see how the rest of the defense works," Asomugha said. 'I could easily do that. I could easily just be told, 'take this guy.' But then everybody else has to fit in to that as well. So it won't necessarily happen that way. It's kind of like, you can't just do it for one guy. You have to make sure the whole defense can adapt if that's your plan. It's not something we've gone to. There are guys that are used to doing what they've done for years. So you're not necessarily going to get into that kind of moving around, type of thing."

While Asomugha's play hasn't been terrible, the fact that the Eagles (4-6) have struggled and he was one of their biggest offseason pick-ups, has cast a much brighter spotlight on him not being as dominant a player as he was with the Raiders.

"He's done some good things," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "We've asked him to do a ton. He's a guy that loves to play the game. He wants to be the best; and again, we're asking him to do more than he's done in the past. I think he's handled it well."

But he'll be the first to tell you that he can get better.

The same goes for the Eagles, who have lost five of their six games this season by a touchdown or less. Experiencing that good, but not-good-enough-to-win feeling is equally frustrating and disappointing for Asomugha.

"It just depends, disappointment might come first; frustration might come first," he said. "It depends on how the game went that particular day. But frustration and disappointment are exactly how you would view it.

He added, "It's also encouraging, besides the frustration and disappointment. We know we're a good team that needs to finish out what we start. That's what makes teams great, being able to finish what they start."

A strong finish to the regular season and a good showing in the playoffs are about the only ways this season can end as a successful one for an Eagles team that has lots of talent on its roster - even if the record might suggest otherwise.

"When you bring a team together, you have to build them up, the chemistry and they have to jell before things start to happen," Asomugha said. "You think you can play with what people would call an all-star team or something like that and you're supposed to win every game. But everybody has to be on the same page. You see teams over the years win many games and Super Bowls without the most talented players."

But that won't happen with this Eagles team. For them to win, they'll do it the way most teams do - because of their talent.

Asomugha has seen that talent in bits and bursts all season.

"It's happened in several games this year, but just hasn't happened for the entire game," he said. "We have to make it happen every game."

Patriots release DT Darius Kilgo, reportedly sign WR Griff Whalen

Patriots release DT Darius Kilgo, reportedly sign WR Griff Whalen

The New England Patriots have announced that they've released defensive tackle Darius Kilgo. 

The move creates an opening for wide receiver Griff Whalen, who they have reportedly signed to a one-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Kilgo, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland in 2015, did not make an appearance for the Patriots after being claimed off waivers from the Broncos last week. He played 81 snaps for Denver this season.

Whalen, 26, played in two games for San Diego in 2016 where he caught two passes for a total of 22 yards. 

The former Colts wideout is perhaps best remembered in New England for his part in Indianapolis' disastrous fake punt against the Patriots last season.

 

 

 

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

FOXBORO – John Harbaugh explained on Thursday the difference between the rules loophole his Ravens exploited recently and the one the Patriots exploited in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game that caused him to cry, “Foul.”

What it boiled down to? Everyone knew about the loophole the Ravens took advantage of when they committed an en masse holding penalty at the end of the game against the Bengals. 

Nobody had seen what the Patriots successfully pulled off when they made eligible receivers ineligible and vice versa and went on a touchdown drive that changed the tenor of the game.

“You’re right. I don’t want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said when I asked what the difference was. “That’s all been hashed out. I believe what I believe and I think it’s all been proven to be right.

“The point about [the punt hold] is, it’s been talked about, it’s been looked at, it’s been something that’s been used for 20 years so it’s nothing new,” he explained. “It’s nothing that hadn’t been addressed before by officials or the competition committee.”

Harbaugh said that, in Super Bowl 47, his Ravens used the tactic and his brother Jim, coach of the Niners, took it up with the Competition Committee. John Harbaugh supported the change, he said. The league declined.  

“Everybody knew about that so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody,” said Harbaugh.

LISTEN: New Quick Slants podcast w/ more stories of Ravens antics

After the Patriots beat Baltimore in a tremendous game, Harbaugh was in a snit in his postgame press conference alleging the “nobody’s ever seen that [eligible-ineligible trickery] before.” He said the play was “illegal” and “deceptive.”

I mentioned that Alabama had run the play in a nationally televised game against LSU and that the Titans had done the same thing on a game-ending play against the Jets a few weeks earlier.

Aside from whether or not the information was accurately communicated by the officials, the tone of Harbaugh’s comments left little room for interpretation. He indicated the Patriots were underhanded and that his comments seemed to discredit New England.

“That was not the intent and if you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way,” said Harbaugh. “That was not the point of it at all. You had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such. The official had no way to identify that for the defense so there was no signal or any other way that they could do that. That was something that was addressed the very next week. If somebody wants to look at it some certain way, that’s not my concern.”

When I offered that referee Bill Vinovich not only identified Shane Vereen as being ineligible but added, “Don’t cover 34…” over the stadium mic, Harbaugh wasn’t having it.  

“That’s not something that had ever been gone over,” he insisted. “Players were never taught don’t cover that player. When you’re on the field, you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can even hear or are listening for. The next week there was a tweak.”

Indeed there was. And not just with the officials then being on the hook to make more detailed announcements. The further tweak, perhaps spurred by the formation chicanery and Tom Brady’s recommendation that Baltimore “study the rules” came when the Ravens passed on intel to the Colts for the AFC Championship Game. One of the recommendations from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was to watch that the Patriots’ sideline staff didn’t monkey with the kicking balls. That was included in a letter to NFL Operations man Mike Kensil along with an allegation that it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots deflate footballs before the game and that the league needed to keep an eye on that.

Harbaugh hasn’t hidden from the fact he found Brady’s comment offensive.

"I was pissed off," he said this past summer. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed...So yeah, that should never have been said."

He has, however, disavowed any talk by his staff about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs. "Any conversation that was had with the Colts had nothing to do with deflated footballs, which is what we've been saying since the very start," Harbaugh said in 2015. "I know that we've answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We've answered questions directly and honestly and straightforward from the start."

Whether the Patriots’ formation plays and the Ravens response to it led to a $30M investigation that hijacked the NFL’s attention for 20 months and resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady is still not definitively known. Could Rosburg and the Colts equipment man have possibly discussed kicking ball chicanery without sharing notes on the belief the Patriots deflated footballs? Rosburg and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Ravens coach Dean Pees were both spoken to by investigator Ted Wells. What did they offer

Just like everything else between Ravens and Patriots, it’s complicated.