Quick-Hits: Like thieves in the night, the Eagles steal Nnamdi Asomugha

Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (L) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Oakland, California October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

In Saturday’s Quick-Hits, the Eagles shock the masses by signing Nnamdi Asomugha, the Phillies get more bang for their prospects than the Giants, and the Bears’ questionable decision regarding Greg Olsen.

– Where did that come from? Just when it looked like free agent Nnamdi Asomugha was headed to New York to team with Darrelle Revis to form the greatest cornerback duo known to man, the Eagles swoop in and pull off a stunner. Asomugha’s deal is for five years at $60 million, which also includes $25 million guaranteed. There were a lot of people who questioned Andy Reid’s decision to make former offensive line coach Juan Castillo the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, but now it might not matter who’s calling the shots on that side of the ball. After acquiring Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason, the Eagles shouldn’t have as many problems in the red zone as they did in 2010. NFL.com’s Mike Lombardi reports that Philly is willing to trade Asante Samuel, which would be a mistake in my eyes. The Eagles are legit Super Bowl contenders now. There’s no reason to part with any talent at this pointt.

– One of the reasons I was so conflicted on the Carlos Beltran trade was because of whom the Giants gave up (top prospect Zach Wheeler) in exchange for the former Met. Granted, Beltran is good and there’s no doubt they needed him. But look at what the Phillies just did in acquiring Hunter Pence from Houston. They parted with two good prospects but landed a 28-year-old outfielder that remains under team control through 2013 – not a 34-year-old outfielder who might not be around in three months when he becomes a free agent. I think the Giants deserve credit for “going for it.” But when the Phillies “go for it” by giving up their top prospects, they land Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Pence – players whom they knew were going to be around a while (or thought they knew when it came to Lee, who was traded in order to acquire Halladay). It seems like the front office philosophy of the Giants is to get a player it likes no matter what the cost. Seeing as how they’re currently defending a World Series title, it’s hard to knock said philosophy. But after reviewing the trades that the two teams made this past week, I can’t help but to think the Phillies made the better overall deal.

– The fact that the Bears traded former first round pick Greg Olsen this offseason is hardly surprising. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn’t use tight ends in his passing game, so the fact that Olsen racked up 41 catches last year was pretty impressive. But giving up a young talent just because your offensive coordinator doesn’t have much need for the player’s position is a risky proposition. For starters, what if Martz isn’t around in a year? Then what do the Bears have to show for Olsen besides a third round pick? It cost them a first round pick to draft him in the first place, so GM Jerry Angelo didn’t get good value here. (After all, it’s not like Olsen can’t play and the Bears were looking to get anything in exchange for him.) Granted, that third rounder could turn out to be a Pro Bowler someday (Angelo is good at finding gems in the middle rounds), but presently the deal doesn’t make sense when you get past Martz’s desire to exclude tight ends. Seeing as how he’s a receiver in a tight end’s body, if I were Angelo I would have rather seen my offensive coordinator try to work with Olsen instead of shipping him to Carolina for a third round pick.

– One player that continues to lose money by the hour is free agent defensive end Cullen Jenkins. The former Packer is a solid player, who that is scheme-versatile in that he can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. But after the Panthers re-signed Charles Johnson, the Eagles landed Jason Babin, the Patriots acquired Albert Haynesworth, the Cowboys inked Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears, and the Falcons got a steal in Ray Edwards, there aren’t a lot of teams that are a fit for Jenkins. Granted, teams always need pass-rushers, but my guess is that Jenkins will wind up back in Green Bay on the cheap.

– The Rams made two moves on Friday that I really liked. The first was signing nasty offensive guard Harvey Dahl away from the Falcons. I keep reading how Sam Bradford will love the addition of Dahl, which is true. But he might not love it as much as running back Steven Jackson. Dahl is an absolute mauler in the run game and brings a much-needed nasty demeanor to St. Louis’ offensive line. The other signing I like was Mike Sims-Walker, who only received a one-year deal because the Rams want to make him prove himself. When healthy and motivated, he’s the big receiver that Bradford sorely needs. But if he winds up being a free agent bust, hey, no problem: he’ll be gone in a year.

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The MAC will be well represented at this year’s Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is all smiles after the Steelers defeated the New York Jets 24-19, winning the AFC Championship, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 23, 2011. The Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Quick, name the conference that will have the second most representatives at this year’s Super Bowl.

The MAC? Damn. You read the title didn’t you? You little title reader, you…

That’s right, the MAC, with its 15 players, is second only to the SEC (18) in terms of representatives at Super Bowl XLV. According to Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun writer and fellow TSR contributor Drew Ellis, the Packers have nine former MAC players on their roster, including Central Michigan’s Cullen Jenkins, Frank Zombo and Josh Gordy, Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings, Buffalo running back James Starks, Miami of Ohio’s Tom Crabtree, offensive lineman T.J. Lang of Eastern Michigan, safety Atari Bigby of Central Florida and linebacker Diyral Briggs of Bowling Green.

Of course, the most recognizable name to come out of the MAC is Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played at Miami. Pittsburgh also rosters former MAC players Antonio Brown (CMU), linebacker James Harrison (Kent State), quarterbacks Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan) and Byron Leftwich (Marshall), as well kicker Shaun Suisham (BGSU).

According to a former MAC player, it is the constant disrespect the conference gets on a national stage that could lead to the players succeeding in the NFL.

“It really speaks volumes about the conference,” former CMU quarterback and teammate of Zombo, Brown, and Gordy, Brian Brunner, said. “This conference used to be know for being a quarterback-conference, but it has really become much more. National pundits may dog the MAC but when you see numbers like these you realize that a lot of MAC players that get a chance to play in the NFL, they come into the league with a chip on their shoulder and they are going work hard and push themselves and prove they belong.”

Obviously the number of players that represent a conference in the Super Bowl doesn’t reflect its status in college football. I hardly doubt we’ll hear anyone campaign for Northern Illinois to play in next year’s BCS title game if the Huskies go 11-0 and the MAC won’t suddenly be viewed as an elite conference.

But it’s nevertheless interesting to see that the little ol’ MAC – not the Big 12, Big Ten or ACC – has only three fewer players at this year’s title game than the SEC. It just goes to show you that talent is talent.

What is going on with the Green Bay Packers?

I figured this game against the Falcons would give us a pretty good idea just where the Green Bay Packers currently stand. They were impressive in beating the Vikings in Week 1, they got the job done against the Lions in Week 2, they lost to a very good Dallas team in Week 3 and fell to a good Tampa Bay team on the road in Week 4. If you looked at those first four games before the season started, and assumed that Aaron Rodgers didn’t fall on his face, then you probably could have correctly picked the winner of each one of those games.

But losing to Atlanta at home? That’s a game that a good team should win, and for all intents and purposes, the Packers aren’t a good team. Without Al Harris, Roddy White was able to work over Charles Woodson to the tune of eight catches for 132 yards and a TD in the first half. The Packers held him without a catch in the second half, but the Falcons were able to take advantage of great field position in the fourth quarter to score 10 points and seal the victory.

The truth is, even without Al Harris (and defensive end Cullen Jenkins), the Packers should have enough talent to beat the Falcons at home, but they simply didn’t play a clean game. Green Bay was penalized nine times for 97 yards, while the Falcons were penalized twice for just 15 yards. Time and again the Packers would shoot themselves in the foot with an ill-advised holding or facemask penalty.

Then, with his team trailing by three with 4:42 to play, facing a third-and-19 from its own 21 yard-line, Aaron Rodgers made a crucial mistake by trying to force the ball to Ruvell Martin. The Falcons scored on a Michael Turner 2-yard TD run to go up 10. If Rodgers had the presence of mind to throw the ball away, the Packers defense would have had a puncher’s chance at stopping Atlanta on their side of the field, and the Green Bay offense would have had at least one more chance to tie (or win) the game.

So it’s not Aaron Rodgers’ inexperience, injuries or a lack of discipline that has the Packers on a three-game losing streak; it’s a combination of the three. All in all, Rodgers has performed admirably this season, and injuries can’t really be controlled, so discipline is the only way that Green Bay can vastly improve over the next few weeks. (That, and the team suddenly figuring out how to run the ball again, though I’m not holding my breath.) Unfortunately, the road isn’t going to get easier. The Packers have to travel to Seattle to face an angry team that just got embarrassed against the Giants. Then they host the Colts before visiting the Titans and the Vikings. After that, they host the Bears.

Things could get very ugly very quickly.

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