NNAMDI ASOMUGHA said he and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie talked about it just before reporters entered the Eagles' locker room yesterday - the Birds' cornerback depth, which has seemed unwieldy at times this season, really comes in handy at times like this.
"I don't think every team has that," Asomugha said.
Asante Samuel, the usual starter opposite Asomugha, hasn't practiced all week after suffering a hamstring injury Sunday against the Jets. Eagles coach Andy Reid was optimistic early in the week about Samuel playing, but Reid said yesterday that Samuel felt soreness when he tested the hamstring Tuesday.
The Eagles didn't have to list players as "probable," "questionable," "doubtful" or "out" yesterday, even though this was their final true practice day before tomorrow's game in Dallas. It was "Friday" in terms of the practice routine, but it was not actually Friday, when those determinations are made. Hard to say whether Samuel will be questionable, doubtful or out today. The fact that he watched the entire practice each day might lead one to think the Birds are not just trying to be mysterious, they really do think he might get better in time to play.
"He knows what we're doing. It's just a matter of getting the soreness out of there, to where he feels comfortable," Reid said. "Nobody wants to play more than he does, so you know he's going to do everything possible to get himself ready to go."
Rodgers-Cromartie would take Samuel's spot if the hamstring doesn't improve, and Joselio Hanson would play the nickel role, as he did while Rodgers-Cromartie was sidelined with an ankle injury for 3 weeks.
Asomugha has been a mentor to Rodgers-Cromartie, 25, who struggled to pick up Juan Castillo's coverages, and to adjust to playing inside. He had excelled outside, in press coverage, for Arizona, before being traded to the Eagles in August.
"Learning this new system wasn't going to be a quick turnaround for him," said Asomugha, who added that the ankle injury didn't help. "We've brought him back slowly. When you come back from injury, then the confidence has to play a part, you have to start getting that back, be sure of yourself. We're starting to see that a lot more from him. He's putting the injury behind him."
Rodgers-Cromartie left the locker room before reporters were allowed in. If he's that quick and stealthy in Dallas, the Birds should be OK.
Speaking of longshots . . .
A lot of stuff has to happen over the final 2 weeks for the Eagles to make the playoffs. Maybe you remember 2008, when that was also true, and it all happened.
On the final day of the season, the Eagles needed the Texans to beat the Bears and the 13-point underdog Raiders to win in Tampa, with the Bucs looking to clinch a playoff spot. Then the Eagles needed to beat the Cowboys at the Linc.
Footballoutsiders.com rated the Eagles' chances of making the playoffs at 9.8 percent, as the day began.
As it happens, Nnamdi Asomugha played for the Raiders that day. His defensive coordinator was Rob Ryan.
"We weren't playing for the Eagles at that point, but we were playing the spoiler role. I remember us talking about it. Rob Ryan made it a point in the meetings . . . These [Eagles] guys talk about it all the time, too, when they talk about this year, and things that have happened in the past," Asomugha said yesterday.
Oakland trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter, but came back to win, 31-24. Rashad Baker, later an Eagle who dressed in the stall Asomugha now occupies, intercepted Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia (remember him?) late in the game.
Speaking of locker stalls, the guy who dominated that corner of the room before Baker and Asomugha, actually had a two-stall suite, was a fellow named Dawkins. Dawk forced two fumbles in the final home game of his 13-year Eagles career that day, and the Birds beat the Cowboys, 44-6, the most lopsided game in the history of the rivalry.