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Rodgers-Cromartie States Case

That hasn't stopped Rodgers-Cromartie from being a cheerful, productive player in the Eagles locker room this season. And that attitude, and the willingness to accept a less-than-ideal role, served Rodgers-Cromartie well as he made his most impressive statement of the year in Saturday's win over Dallas.

Rodgers-Cromartie started in place of the injured Asante Samuel at left cornerback and played standout football, part of the Eagles' lockdown defensive effort. Matched up against Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson, Rodgers-Cromartie was airtight in his coverage. He played mostly in press formation, at the line of scrimmage, and he did an excellent job getting his hands on the receiver and matching the precision of the routes.

It was a powerful statement, and one that begs the question of Rodgers-Cromartie and his future here. With Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles have two of the game's best cornerbacks and they are going to start. Can Rodgers-Cromartie play in the slot, with a full offseason of practice and honing of the difficult craft? Would the Eagles make a move to allow Rodgers-Cromartie to become a starter in 2012, hoping that he again ascends to the elite group of young cornerbacks in the league?

Or do the Eagles play it in 2012 as they played in 2011, with Asomugha and Samuel starting and with Rodgers-Cromartie waiting in the wings?

Those are questions to be answered another day. What we saw on Saturday was a glimpse of just how good Rodgers-Cromartie can be and how well he fits into the scheme.

"I was cool out there. I felt pretty good throughout the whole week, and me and Juan (Castillo, defensive coordinator) spent a lot of time during the week going over the gameplan so I felt confident going in," said Rodgers-Cromartie. "I was excited to get on the field and run around with these guys for a whole game. It was fun.

"It's been real hard, coming from Arizona and kind of being the 'guy' there, playing in a Pro Bowl, really making plays and then coming here and being a backup. It's been hard, but I understand who the two guys in front of me are. When they made me the nickel cornerback, I wasn't too mad because I had a chance to get on the field. I just wanted to get on the field and make some plays."

Rodgers-Cromartie had his ups and downs as the nickel cornerback. He relies on his long arms and his freakish athletic ability at the cornerback position and he is best served when playing in space, when he can show off his remarkable recovery ability and get his hands on the football. The slot is all about working in a crowded area and fighting through traffic and using leverage in a tight window.

Who knows, maybe Rodgers-Cromartie, because he is so extraordinarily talented, can become a standout in the slot in the future. Right now, Joselio Hanson is clearly the better fit in Castillo's defense. Then again, maybe the Eagles will shake things up at cornerback for 2012 and Rodgers-Cromartie will get his chance.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'm just glad I had the chance to go out and help the team win."

Dallas quarterbacks Tony Romo (0 for 2) and Stephen McGee (24 of 38) passed for just 182 yards and a touchdown on Saturday, and the TD came late with the game well out of reach. Statistics only mean so much -- we know, we know, the Eagles are 7-8 -- but the defense is now second in the NFC in total defense and second against the pass. There are a lot of good things going on with Castillo's group as the team heads into the season finale against Washington Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

One of the offseason topics of conversations among those who make the decisions here is what to do at the cornerbacks positions, where the Eagles have great depth and talent. Asomugha, Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie are Pro Bowl-caliber players. Hanson is a fine slot corner. Rookie Curtis Marsh wants to push his way into the picture next year and young veteran Brandon Hughes has a future in this league.

It is a great situation to have, and it may also be untenable for another season. Can the Eagles make it work? Can Rodgers-Cromartie -- whom everyone calls 'Git,' as in, 'Legit' in the locker room -- keep his sanity as a third cornerback for another season?

We'll see. Most encouraging was the way Rodgers-Cromartie stepped up against Dallas, was fast and physical and assured any doubters that he is every bit the player the Eagles thought he was when they made the offseason trade with Arizona.

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