EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Last season, cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came to Philadelphia with lofty resumes and the expectations to match. Together, they had combined for four Pro Bowl nods in their careers, and Asomugha had been named to an All-Pro team four times.
But with their second seasons coming to a close in Philadelphia, Sunday's game was a reminder of just how different reality was from the lofty expectations they faced from the beginning. Now, both are at a crossroads in their NFL careers – Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent and Asomugha finished the season on the bench, replaced by Curtis Marsh.
From the beginning, Rodgers-Cromartie's Eagles career was an unusual one. For an oh-so-brief time in 2011, he was locked in as the starter opposite Asante Samuel. But after the Eagles surprised the NFL by signing Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie was relegated to the nickel.
"Coming in, I thought I was going to come in and play right away," he said. "We got another signing, signing Nnamdi and my job kind of went astray. I played the nickel for a whole year then got the opportunity to play outside, and things didn't go well. But for the most part, I'm just going to keep grinding."
After the Eagles traded Samuel to the Falcons this offseason, Rodgers-Cromartie was placed back on the outside. He looked like the best player on the field in Training Camp and the preseason, and that impressive play briefly carried over into the regular season, too. He had two interceptions in the season opener in Cleveland, and looked every bit the physically gifted shutdown corner he was advertised to be.
But as the season wore on, Rodgers-Cromartie did not improve and now ends the season with an uncertain future. Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent, and it remains to be seen if the Eagles will be interested in retaining his services. For his part, Rodgers-Cromartie has stated that he'd like to stay in midnight green.
On the other side of the field, Asomugha finished the season in disappointing fashion. He was touted as one of the best corners in the business; an All-Pro defender truly worthy of the "shutdown cornerback" label. But his resume hasn't matched his recent performance, and tenure in Philadelphia has been marked by inconsistent play. Asomugha's 2012 season concluded after he was called for pass interference for the second time in Sunday's game to give playing time to a younger player.
"It's just been frustrating," he said. "The frustrating thing about it is having some really great moments and then having the tough ones. It's consistency. For so long, being accustomed to being at an elite level, and then having that become inconsistent. That's been the toughest and most frustrating thing for me.
"You just have to keep working at it. There's still belief that I can be consistent for an entire year at that level instead of having great moments here and then tough moments."
How the Eagles handle their secondary will be one of the biggest questions of the offseason. It's not how anyone envisioned the position unfolding, least of all the players themselves. Sunday's game was a stark reminder of just how the Eagles' cornerback position has changed from the promise shown on the Training Camp practice fields at Lehigh University.
"When we came out the gate, things were going really well," Asomugha said. "And at some point it started going downhill, the season, and that kind of became this big nightmare type of situation."
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