Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honorable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honorable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
Like Asante Samuel before him, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie drew a lot of righteous anger during his stay in Philadelphia. Despite natural athletic talents that rival any cornerback in the NFL, Rodgers-Cromartie floats through the game of football. He was an awful tackler even when he tried, and he rarely put in the effort anyway. He gave up many more penalties and long plays than any "Pro Bowl" corner should. In short, despite those tremendous outfits, he was nearly impossible to root for.
To that end, I have little quarrel with the Eagles deciding to let Rodgers-Cromartie walk without applying the franchise tag, as Geoff Mosher reported. If Chip Kelly doesn't want him, nor Howie Roseman (who acquired him in 2011), nor defensive coordinator Billy Davis (who coached DRC in Arizona), who are we to argue? It's not like the cornerback stood out last year. Here are the coverage numbers, from Pro Football Focus. The ranks show their place among the 77 cornerbacks who played at least half of their team's coverage snaps in 2012:
Looking at DRC's stats, you can tell he was no star. Of course, none of the Eagles corners were. Brandon Boykin held his own in the slot, proving himself admirable, if not spectacular in his rookie season. Nnamdi Asomugha continued his long streak of scaring quarterbacks off, posting the fourth-lowest targets per snap in the league. Of course, when they actually did throw his way, Asomugha was awful. He ranked 63rd in completion percentage and dead last in yards per target.
Rodgers-Cromartie doesn't deserve any breaks either. True, his target and completion rates were above average, but his performance declined dramatically over the course of the season as he seemed to lose interest. See the table at right, as DRC's quarterback rating against dropped after a good start to the season through week six.
This is probably the point where we should bring up the event that occured after week six: the firing of Juan Castillo. Remember what the cornerback said when Castillo was kicked out the door?
Most of the players have had fond words regarding Juan Castillo the man, but few have stood up for him as a coach quite like DRC did on Thursday. Rodgers-Cromartie revealed that it was Castillo that transformed him into a press corner, working overtime with him to make sure the 26-year-old went through the change as smoothly as possible.
“No question. He changed my game. He turned me into a press corner,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “He’s one of the guys that took the time with you, to make you understand the weakness in your game and keep you after practice and make you work on it. This is the NFL, you’re accountable for yourself. Not too many people are going to say, ‘Hey, you need to do this and make sure you do it.’ They tend to let you do it on your own.”
Rodgers-Cromartie is capable of playing at a high level in spurts, but to do so consistently he needs special attention from coaches. That's not something we expect Kelly and his team of 50 assistant coaches (give or take) to have time to do, right? If DRC's performance goes downhill after his favorite coach is fired and the rest of the defense is falling apart, surely we don't want him around any more.
Time to move on to the team's other alternatives. Restructure Asomugha's contract, sort through the free agent bin and draft heap to find another adequate starter. Moving Boykin out of his natural slot position could work. Or perhaps one of the gang of invisible backups is will start showcasing Pro Bowl talent. Whatever the result, letting a young, capable, and inconsistent starting cornerback go for nothing is definitely the right move. There have to be better ways to spend the Eagles' plentiful salary cap space. DRC, don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Photo from Getty.