Monday, December 22, 2014

Practice notes: Finding a place for DRC

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lined up at right cornerback, and Juan Castillo called his number.

Practice notes: Finding a place for DRC

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be willing to play the role of nickel cornerback. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be willing to play the role of nickel cornerback. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lined up at right cornerback, and Juan Castillo called his number.

It was time to use his elite speed and surprise Vince Young with a blitz.

Rodgers-Cromartie flew in a straight line, chasing Young to his right for the eventual "sack" in the red zone.

"I never did it [in Arizona]," Rodgers-Cromartie said, when I asked him about his previous experience as a blitzer. "But that is something I am looking forward to, coming off that edge."

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According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers-Cromartie didn't blitz a single time last season, and the Cardinals sent him after the quarterback just twice in three NFL seasons. There are probably several reasons why, including that they needed him to cover and that he wasn't a good tackler in 2010.

If he's asked to play inside with the Eagles, Rodgers-Cromartie might get called on to go after the quarterback more. Hanson, playing primarily the slot, blitzed 49 times in 2010, according to PFF.

But Rodgers-Cromartie's role as the nickel cornerback is not set in stone. Castillo is still tinkering with his personnel, trying to find the right combinations.

Just this morning, Rodgers-Cromartie lined up both inside and outside.

"Inside was kind of tough at first, but I got it now," he said. "Outside you mainly only got certain defenses. You either man up on a guy or you in like a little zone, but you gotta worry about the run inside, the pass. It's a lot more complicated."

Nnamdi Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie also played back as safeties/ballhawks in one formation. On one play, the Eagles put Kurt Coleman up on a wide receiver and allowed Asomugha to drift back, read the quarterback and make a play on the ball.

"That's the center-field safety, just being inside," Cromartie said. "They got me going everywhere, just mainly listen for the call and go where needed."

The Eagles have also been practicing in a dime package with Asante Samuel and Joselio Hanson joining Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. Jamar Chaney has been the lone linebacker in that set.

MORE PRACTICE NOTES

* Jason Kelce continues to rotate in with Jamaal Jackson at center. I could pretty much copy and paste that sentence every day. The more I think about it, the more I lean towards Jackson starting. Given all the moves the Eagles have made, do they really want two rookies (Danny Watkins) at center and right guard? Jackson's experience is valuable, and he's playing well.

* I've noticed many members of the Eagles secondary going to Nate Allen with questions. Pretty remarkable, considering this is only his second year in the league. But he obviously knows what he's doing and has to be one of the most coachable guys on the team.

* Ryan Harris missed practice once again, and King Dunlap continued to take his place at right tackle with the ones. Evan Mathis has been practicing at right tackle with the twos. If he can show he's competent both at guard and tackle, Mathis will certainly add to his value.

* During blitz work, I noticed a couple linemen, including Darryl Tapp drop back into coverage. Sorry, everyone (don't shoot the messenger). The zone blitz concept is not dead here just yet.

* Juqua Parker didn't practice, and Jason Babin ran with the ones at left defensive end. The BroMance between him and Trent Cole is alive and well.

* The Eagles' red-zone defense was one of the worst in league history last season. But they did some good things today. Anthony Hargrove, who continues to get reps as the first-team defensive tackle alongside Cullen Jenkins, batted a Michael Vick pass down at the line of scrimmage. On the next play, pressure disrupted a screen attempt. And a Jamar Chaney blitz threw off Vick's timing on an incompletion intended for Riley Cooper.

* This is surprising, but last year, 23 of DeSean Jackson's 47 catches were made within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Today, Vick hit him on a quick pass in the red zone, and Jackson took it to the end zone. The theory is simple: Get the ball in his hands any way possible.

* Clay Harbor made a nice catch from Vince Young with safety Jarrad Page all over him.

* The starting linebackers remain the same, but Akeem Jordan saw time in the middle with the twos. He was joined by Keenan Clayton and Brian Rolle. Rookie Greg Lloyd did not practice today. As I keep mentioning, there could still be a lot of movement at this position before Week 1.

* The education continues for Danny Watkins. Howard Mudd removed him from one drill with the first team for a quick teaching lesson as fellow rookie Julian Vandervelde took Watkins' place.

* Phillip Hunt had some nice moments during one-on-ones against Mathis. Not sure if there's going to be room for him on the roster, but the coaches have to be intrigued by Hunt's potential.

* Before the team ended practice with special teams, Kurt Coleman was talking noise to Jason Avant about the defense winning the previous drill. Once the kickoff units got on the field, Bobby April had to hold things up because Coleman was in the wrong place. "He went to Ohio State, coach," Avant, the Michigan product, chirped.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
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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