Eagles CB Asomugha tries to shake slow start
There is no grace period in Philadelphia for a free agent who gets a $60 million contract. Nnamdi Asomugha was supposed to walk onto the field and be an instant superstar. Starting Day 1.
It hasn't happened.
The Eagles have struggled, and their prized free-agent cornerback has struggled too.
In the Eagles' loss to the Giants two weeks ago, Asomugha was unable to tackle Victor Cruz early on his 74-yard touchdown catch from Eli Manning, then was beat by the unheralded Cruz on the game-winning 28-yard score.
This past week, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree beat Asomugha on a 38-yard pass play from Alex Smith as the 49ers rallied from 20 points down in the second half to beat the Eagles.
First-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo admits he's given Asomugha too many responsibilities in his first year, and concedes that it's hurt the three-time Pro Bowler.
''Really when he first came here, I thought, 'Here's a guy who I can use like (seven-time Pro Bowl pick) Charles Woodson, here's somebody who can line up anywhere','' Castillo said of the former Oakland Raider. ''That's what we've been doing. (But) I have to be careful with that because Nnamdi is human. I have to do a better job handling him. I have to remember he's human.''
Asomugha was strictly a man-coverage cornerback during his eight years with the Raiders. With the Eagles, he's done a bit of everything.
''I've played the slot this year, I've played on tight ends, I've played free safety, I've played corner,'' he said. ''It's a lot more than just going out there and playing man.''
And in his first year with a new team, a new coordinator, a new position coach, a new scheme and a new role and without minicamps or any offseason practices, it's been a difficult adjustment.
''The challenge comes when you're doing new things,'' Asomugha said. ''It's not necessarily a traditional scheme that we have here. Obviously, it's a challenge getting everything down and getting it down with all the different positions, and not just corner.
''The more you do something, the more comfortable you are with it. If you're not doing it as much and then you're doing it for the first time in games, you're kind of doing on the run. The more we do it in practice and things start to settle down, then I think the better we'll be.''
But the Eagles are running out of time. They're 1-3 for only the second time in 13 years under coach Andy Reid and in danger of dropping out of the playoff hunt after reaching the postseason nine of the last 11 seasons.
Despite the offseason additions of Asomugha, Pro Bowl corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NFL sack leader Jason Babin and highly regarded defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who has three sacks, the Eagles' defense has allowed an NFL-high 10 touchdown passes and ranks 30th against the run.
The Eagles face the Bills (3-1) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday, and a loss would give them their first four-game losing streak since 2005 and their first 1-4 start since 1999, Reid's first season.
''You never to (say), 'Oh we're young, new to the defense,''' Asomugha said. ''We expected - and the expectation is - we were all gonna be sound and have it down and the preseason would get it all down and defined.
''Truth of the matter is there's a growth process. We've been in that growth process since we've started. We have the talent, but being a great defense doesn't happen overnight. We've got to make it work. Our goal is to win it all. We don't have that much time to try to figure it out.
''It's got to be figured out.''