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Offseason Preview: Cornerback

Posted Jan 20, 2013

We continue forward with our position-by-position snapshot of each position group as the Eagles move head-first into the offseason. Next up, it's the position that may garner more attention than any other before next season; cornerback.

End Of Season Depth Chart: When the Eagles shocked the NFL by swooping in for the league's most coveted free agent two summers ago, the expectations for Nnamdi Asomugha's tenure in Philadelphia were sky-high. So even though Asomugha has been a solid cornerback over the last two years for the Eagles, his tenure with the team thus far has been viewed from the outside as one of at least mild disappointment. There have been suggestions that Asomugha was not a perfect match for the team's defensive scheme, so perhaps the 31-year-old will bounce back in a new defense. Asomugha was still largely effective when pressing wide receivers, which should be a selling point moving forward.

On the other side, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie flashed his unique athleticism though on an inconsistent basis. As talented a corner as there may be in the league, Rodgers-Cromartie, 26, was nonetheless victimized on occasion down the field. The team will have to make a decision on how they view Rodgers-Cromartie as the former Pro Bowler is scheduled to be a free agent. As with Asomugha, the decision rests on whether the disappointing 2012 secondary is viewed as a malfunction of talent or scheme.

On the plus side, the Eagles got a very promising rookie campaign from former Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, who grabbed hold of the nickel corner job heading into Week 1. Boykin, 5-9, 182, also handled the kickoff return duties for the Eagles, but he made his mark on defense. Nickel cornerback is often said to be among the most difficult positions to play in today's NFL because there is no help from the boundary. That the rookie could handle the role well in year one bodes well for his future and for the Eagles' comfort at the position.

Behind Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside were second-year cornerback Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. Marsh, 24, received only 62 snaps on defense, so the jury is still out on the former Utah State running back. Marsh was always going to be a long-term investment because of his relative inexperience at the position, so this will be a big offseason for him. Hughes, 26, played 64 snaps on defense as he continues to fight his way onto the field.

After the conclusion of the season, the Eagles added three more cornerbacks to the roster: former Virginia Tech standout Eddie Whitley, who finished the season on the practice squad, 2011 fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley and veteran corner Chris Hawkins.

Player To Watch In The Offseason: Marsh is the one who could emerge to change the picture of the Eagles' cornerback crop in 2013. After watching and learning from the likes of Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel for the past two seasons, now is the time for Marsh to step up and make a name of his own. Marsh, 6-1, 197, is a dedicated offseason trainer, even dabbling in boxing to help keep in shape, so there will be no lack of motivation.

Free Agent To Be: The decision facing the Eagles on Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the more intriguing offseason decisions facing the club. The talented cornerback will likely command a large deal on the open market, as frustrating as his inconsistency can be. The franchise tag is also an option if the Eagles opt to make Rodgers-Cromartie earn his keep for another season.

Best Performance: The reason Rodgers-Cromartie's inconsistent play can be so maddening is that when he's on, he's a difference maker. Remember back to Week 1 when he opened the season with a dynamic two-interception performance. In the second and third quarter of the victory over the Cleveland Browns, Rodgers-Cromartie made nearly identical interceptions on balls floated down the right sideline. It was a banner day for the pass defense that intercepted Brandon Weeden four times on the day.

Noteworthy Stat:Boykin was the fifth-best rookie cornerback (who played at least 25 percent of his team's snaps) in 2012 according to ProFootballFocus, trailing only Casey Hayward of the Packers, Trumaine Johnson of the Rams, Alfonzo Dennard of the Patriots and Leonard Johnson of the Buccaneers. Boykin, incidentally, was the 13th cornerback taken in last year's draft.

Previous Offseason Previews:
Quarterback
Backfield
Wide Receiver
Offensive Tackle
Guard/Center
Defensive End
Defensive Tackle
Linebacker

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