Heeding the lesson provided by the proverbial tortoise, Eagles cornerback
"Any time that you have more time to prepare, that's definitely going to help," said Asomugha after Wednesday's OTA. "But learning the way that we did last year definitely helped us too, because now we know what to expect, we know what things don't work, we've been able to cut those out and we've been able to make progress on the things that did work last year."
Last year, the Eagles defense was thrown together in training camp, with a new coordinator and a new collection of players, including some who were learning new roles. Asomugha, meanwhile, had spent his offseason in the dark about where he would play his football in 2011. Now, with a year under Juan Castillo's belt, a sense of familiarity among the defense and the requisite spring practices, Asomugha believes the defense is in much better shape.
"I think it's huge," he said. "I think the comfort level is huge just knowing who your teammates are, just going into practice as opposed to going into games and not really knowing - obviously you know a guy's name, but not really knowing how they play. So I know these guys now, I know them much better, they know me, so we know what works and what doesn't work."
Asomugha pointed out a portion of the day's practice as a perfect example of the benefit of the OTAs. After a "miscommunication on a coverage" during a drill, the defense was able to stop and go over just what had gone wrong.
"Everybody just came back to the sideline like, 'We're happy that we can do that right now because it won't happen again,'" said Asomugha, "instead of having that happen in the game because you don't have these moments.
"It's much better when you have that type of miscommunication here at OTAs than learning in the game."
With Castillo, Asomugha can tell a difference between the defensive coordinator who was entering his first year on the job last summer and the one who now has a season under his belt, including an impressive closing four-game stretch in which the defense allowed just 11.5 points per game.
"He's doing less and ... his thoughts are more refined," said Asomugha of Castillo. "He's been through it. He's seasoned now, so it's not as much testing the waters or seeing what plays work and what players work, he already has that stuff down. So now it's just fine-tuning everything."
That fine-tuning is likely to still include Asomugha’s occasional utilization as an inside defender, especially when the opponent features a top-level tight end.
"Sometimes you go against teams where (the tight end) is the number one target, and I think you always want to cover the number one target," said Asomughsa. "So if the tight end is that big of a threat, then the majority of the time, that's where you'll see the moving around with tight ends."
As for Asomugha himself, the transition from homegrown California boy to transplanted Philadelphia newbie has finally taken shape.
"I got adjusted throughout the season, definitely wasn't adjusted when I first got here, but throughout the season, I got adjusted," he said. "Having a season has been really good ... I go back home to (Los Angeles), and everybody's like 'How do you like Philly?' I tell them 'I love it.' Being out here, being able to experience and being able to grow in a way that I've been able to grow the past several months I think has been huge for me, as a player, as a person."
One of the lessons learned by Asomugha and the rest of the Eagles over the last 10 months or so has been the relative meaninglessness of preseason proclamations. Simply stated, the Eagles will wait to make their point on the field.
"There was no talk last year, but we understand how it works," said Asomugha. "I think the less we say and the more we play, obviously the better off we'll be because there are going to be people who aren't expecting a lot, there's people that are expecting a lot; those are things that we can't control. So when we don't say much and we just go out and focus and do our job, I think it helps out a lot."
There are now 256 days until the February 3 Super-Bowl finish line. Will the Eagles be there? As Asomugha would tell you, be patient.
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