Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Asomugha, new Eagles take the field

It was just about 7:45 a.m. when Nnamdi Asomugha stepped onto the practice fields at Lehigh.

Asomugha, new Eagles take the field

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Nnamdi Asomugha (left) participated in his first practice as an Eagle. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Nnamdi Asomugha (left) participated in his first practice as an Eagle. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

It was just about 7:45 a.m. when Nnamdi Asomugha stepped onto the practice fields at Lehigh.

By my count, he was the fourth Eagle to make his way outside, holding his shoulder pads in his right hand and making small-talk with security and team officials.

A few minutes later, out came No. 93 and No. 97 - Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, two of the newest members of the defensive line.

As Asomugha found his place during initial drills, catching balls from defensive backs coaches Michael Zordich and Johnnie Lynn, Vince Young lined up in shotgun at the other end of the field. He was next to Michael Vick, Mike Kafka and Jerrod Johnson. The quarterbacks listened to the plays called by Doug Pederson, took the snap from their respective centers and then talked out what they were supposed to do.

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Young was paired up with Jamaal Jackson, who's set to begin his seventh season in the NFL - all with the Eagles, all under Andy Reid. After Jackson snapped the ball, he helped Young, the new guy, figure out what was supposed to be happening on the play.

Meanwhile, on another field, there was No. 64, new right tackle Ryan Harris. So new, in fact, that he doesn't even have a name on his jersey yet.

There were others too - Evan Mathis, Anthony Hargrove, Derek Landri. Even one familiar face practicing for the first time - Akeem Jordan.

These are your 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. With the first preseason game less than a week away, and the first regular-season game a little more than five weeks away, they finally took the field together for the first time.

THREE CORNERS: WHERE'S NNAMDI?

The question since the Eagles signed Asomugha has been: How will he line up with Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie?. In the base defense, it was Samuel on the left and Asomugha on the right, with Rodgers-Cromartie off the field. Simple enough.

With the way the roster is currently constructed, I get the feeling the Eagles would play nickel quite a bit. From what I saw, Hanson joined Samuel and Asomugha in that package, and Rodgers-Cromartie was still off to the side.

We also saw (for the first time in camp, by my count) the Eagles' dime package, with four cornerbacks, two safeties and one linebacker. As I've mentioned before, if the Eagles do hang on to Samuel, it'll be interesting to see if they can get anything for Hanson (maybe a late-round pick?).

Asomugha played a variety of roles in this package. He blitzed a little. He roamed a little. He covered a little. Earlier this week, I wrote about Juan Castillo's Charles Woodson comparison. In this specific package, Asomugha was being used in a Woodson-like role.

Andy Reid reiterated that Asomugha wants to be used differently. He explained that the Raiders play a lot of man coverage, and Asomugha excelled there, but at this point in his career, he looks forward to trying out different things.

"Now he's going to be exposed to all these different coverages," Reid said. "He welcomes that. That's what he wants to do. He wants to be moved around, put inside. He expressed that to me when he talked."

If the Eagles are indeed going to use Asomugha differently, it's risky because he really wasn't used in previous roles in Oakland. According to Pro Football Focus, he was asked to blitz just three times last season and 17 times total in the last three seasons. He played inside only 9 percent of the time.

Then again, by all accpunts, Asomugha is one of the most talented defensive players in the game.

It's also worth noting that this was the first time he was able to participate. We'll see where Asomugha lines up in practice number two.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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