So Long, Sammie

Posted: December 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

The Eagles defense played pretty well in 2007, finishing 9th in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed.  There was one problem.  The Eagles were 32nd in takeaways.  The team had only 11 INTs all year.  Andy Reid and Jim Johnson weren’t happy with that.

Asante Samuel was the prize free agent in the 2008 offseason and the Eagles got him.  His job was to help the team take the ball away from offenses.  Samuel had 4 INTs and broke up 22 passes.  The Eagles improved to 15 INTs that year.  Samuel delivered key INTs in 2 playoff victories that year.

Samuel had 9 picks in 2009 and 7 more in 2010.  The 2011 season has been awkward, to say the least.  The Eagles added Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC, and drafted Curtis Marsh.  All 3 of them are over 6-feet tall, over 190 pounds, and excel in physical, press coverage. Hmm.  Who doesn’t fit that description?  Asante.

He quickly knew that he wasn’t part of the team’s long term plans.  Asante didn’t handle this well.  There were times this year when 10 guys did one thing and he was off being Lone Wolf McQuade (speaking of which, this could be the greatest movie scene of all time).  Nah, bad reference.  JJ McQuade is tough as nails and Asante is softer than cotton candy.

I’ve been very critical of Asante for much of the year.  Let me explain why.  The Eagles knew what they were getting when they signed him back in 2008.  Asante freelances.  He takes gambles.  He isn’t a good tackler.  He will hit, but not tackle.  The Eagles wanted him for his ball skills, which are amazing.  He has great hands and is one of those guys who is in the right spot a lot of times when a ball is floating through the air.

The problem is that Asante took things to a whole new level this year.  There have been run plays where he not only didn’t tackle, but actually moved away from the play.  That is unacceptable.  His freelancing went over the top in the Cardinals loss when he decided not to cover Larry Fitzgerald so he could jump an underneath route.  That was on a crucial 3rd down and set up the Cards to score the winning TD.  Early in the year Asante played off coverage on most, if not all 3rd downs.  Teams knew to throw Asante’s way on 3rd/short.  He’d be playing off and they had an easy 1st down.

Asante wasn’t as risky in the past and he made enough plays to offset the times when he did get burned.  This year he picked off just 3 passes.  He did deliver a pick-6 in the Cards game.

I do give Asante some credit.  He played well against the Dolphins and Jets, before leaving that game with a hamstring injury.  Asante started to press more and made a couple of plays.  He had a key FF in the Miami win and then picked off a pass in the Red Zone in the Jets game.  Some veteran players check out early when their time with a team is winding down.  Asante bought into whatever Reid and Castillo told him and played his best football late in the year.

Asante is a gifted cover corner.  He has great playmaking skills and an electric personality.  In the right situation, he can be an impact player.  He was great for the Eagles for 3 years.  Things went astray this year, but it has nothing to do with a lack of talent.  The Eagles will trade Asante in the offseason.  Because of Asante’s age and contract I don’t think the Eagles will get ideal compensation.  I think he’ll land a 3rd round pick.  I’m sure the FO would love to get at least a 2nd for him.

There are some teams that will be desperate for CB help so you never know.  I just hope the Eagles make a deal in March or April.  Don’t let this situation draw out a long time.

Why not keep him?  Asante just doesn’t fit what the Eagles want to do.  He’s pressed and been more aggressive in recent weeks, but you can’t count on him to do that for a whole year.  Asante wants to do his thing, which is to play off and then jump routes.  Some team will need a bump in takeaways and be willing to live with Asante’s gambling.  Minnesota or St. Louis could be desperate for CB help.  Maybe old friends Dick Jauron or Sean McDermott will want him.  Buffalo might need a CB.  Denver and Tampa need big help with pass defense.  Never count the Skins out when talking about a veteran player.

Sammie gave us some good highlights and great moments, but all good things must come to an end.  It’s time to move on.

* * * * *

WR Ronald Johnson was added to the active roster.  I liked him coming out of USC.  I think he’s got a chance to challenge for a roster spot in 2012, depending on who comes and goes.  He has WR potential, but is also a solid PR and KOR.

34 Comments on “So Long, Sammie”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 1:50 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Tommy, you wrote: “Asante just doesn’t fit what the Eagles want to do.”

    How do we know what the Eagles want to do if they get a new D.C.?

    Even under JC, the Eagles played a bunch of zone?

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 1:59 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Refer back to the part about the big CBs. Clearly we want to play more press coverage, which ties in to the Wide-9.

    No matter what, Asante is done here.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 2:06 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Tommy —

    One follow-up questions, based on the off-season decisions the Eagles made at CB (acquiring bigger, more physical players).

    Why did the Eagles “D” play so much zone this season, or what seemed like more zone than fit the personnel.

    PS – Happy New Year.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 2:15 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I think they played more man/press coverage than you realize. Mixed in zone at times. Lots of mistakes in zone led to problems and probably made it seem like we played more of that than what we did.

    As for why we did certain things…not sure. Juan was all over the place early on.

  5. 5 Liam Garrett said at 5:42 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I thought the zone coverages were designed to compensate for the weak safeties and linebackers against long runs.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 2:13 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Off Topic:

    Watching the Texas A&M v. N’western bowl game.

    Ryan Tannehill has a nice touch, very quick release, big arm, athletic — but throws a bit like Philip Rivers.

    Also A&M has a senior WR named Jeff Fuller — listed at 6’4″ 220 lbs. Looks like a man among boys. He makes Riley Cooper look small. More like Colston.

    He must be pretty good. In 2010, he was a Belitnikoff finalist. (Here’s his A&M bio:

    Wouldn’t it be great to add a guy like this?

    Tommy – any idea about this guy?

    Tommy — how do feel about NW’s Pat Fitzgerald coming to Happy Valley as the new HC?

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 2:51 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Love Pat Fitzgerald. He’d be ideal at PSU, but not sure it will happen.

    Tannehill is good QB prospect. Could be 2nd round pick. Doesn’t have great pocket presence, but a very talented guy. Haven’t decided if I like him for the Eagles or not.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 3:23 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Fuller was one of those guys that everybody was talking about as a potential 1st rounder in the preseason. Just never really took off and exploded the way people thought. He had a dissapointing year like Coples except a physical freak DE will still go high but a WR with question marks will fall into the mid rounds.

  9. 9 Kammich said at 2:41 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I feel a lot more comfortable about the prospect of trading Samuel knowing that someone apparently put a swift kick into DRC’s ass and got him to wake up. In a span of about 4-6 weeks, I’ve gone from “well, DRC was a failed experiment, he’ll play out his contract and then leave,” to “oh, man, I can’t wait to see DRC play an entire season on the outside next year.” Maybe I’m being too optimistic.

    A 3rd round pick for Asante seems like great compensation to me. We all know what Asante “is.” Clearly, the other 31 teams out there will as well. There is a premium to be placed on ballhawks, but it only goes so far. He’s a niche player that would be a nice fit on a team looking for a swift, short term boost in their turnover ratio… but not much more. A third sounds about right to me.

    Considering how bad our DBs were at times this year, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing the group play next year. Nnamdi being further acclimated, DRC getting a full season on the outside, a full offseason worth of development out of Curtis Marsh… and at Safety, hopefully we’ll get more “feast” and less “famine” from our feast-or-famine safeties.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 3:13 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    If there was any single player on the defense who seemed to embody the media’s assertion that some of the defensive players were had not bought into JC’s defense/calls, DRC looked like the poster child . . . until coming back from his injury.

    But I really look forward to having two tall CBs next year. And I’d love to see Marsh or Hughes also beat out the diminutive Joselio Hanson for the slot position.

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 4:16 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Forget about Samuel. I’m more interested in Lone Wolf McQuade. That was a damn good scene. Can you provide a list of your all time favorite movies? Your pop cultural knowledge surpasses your extensive football I.Q.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 5:28 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    That might be a good Off-Topic column for a quiet weekend in January. We won’t be talking about playoffs, so why not movies.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 5:52 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Can we also get some post in the same mold of “Story time with Uncle Jimmy” over on Blogging the beast? I have a feeling you may be able to top even some of the great JimmyK’s stories, mainly because you don’t look like Drew Rosenhaus lol.

  14. 14 Anonymous said at 6:10 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I’ve got a few stories that would be … interesting. You guys would either laugh or shrink in horror. I’ve been known to have too many beers on occasion. No one died…as far as you and the authorities know.

    We’ll see about stuff like this. If we ever meet, I’d be glad to tell some stories to you in person. Not sure what is appropriate for the general public.

  15. 15 Miguel de Maria said at 4:50 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    It’s interesting that the Football Outsiders article about CB success rate (which is the first article on the right side of my screen on this blog) has Asante as the 5th best in the league, and clearly the best CB on the team. Doesn’t pass the eye test or the media perception test, but worth thinking about.

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 5:10 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Eli Manning explained part of this at midseason. He said he won’t throw to Asante’s side because he’s so unpredictable that you don’t know what he’ll do. That sounds good, but the unpredictability hurts his teammates and coaches. They can’t rely on him to carry out assignments.

  17. 17 Thorin McGee said at 7:59 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I can see why we need to move on from Asante, but we also ghave to recognize that he has been really good for us. He was an idealball hawk for JJ’s zone blitz scheme.

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 6:08 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    One thing I’m hearing a lot about in Redskinsland (a desolate, hellish place) is excitement for RGIII. They’ll obviously finish with a better draft pick than we do; what are the chances RGIII lasts to us?

    This question became a lot less relevant once we started winning with Vick late this season, but still curious to know. I’d assume LB is still our top target going into the draft.

  19. 19 Anonymous said at 6:35 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I think RG3 goes Top 5. Might go 2nd. He is a rare talent because of his combination of arm strength, accuracy, mechanics, speed, elusiveness, brains, and intangibles. WAS will have to move up to get him. I could see them doing that. Wonder if Miami would make an aggressive push. They could use a QB and someone to sell tickets.

    We could go for RG3, but it would be costly.

  20. 20 Thorin McGee said at 8:00 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Cam Newton is helping his draft stock immensley.

  21. 21 Anonymous said at 6:29 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Hear here.

  22. 22 Scott Buchanan said at 6:44 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Pead from Cincy is a beast…

  23. 23 Anonymous said at 6:53 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    Love him as a RB. Sloppy today as RS and receiver.

    Really impressive runner. Speedy and very elusive.

  24. 24 Scott Buchanan said at 11:51 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I agree 100%..would love to see him in an Eagles uniform next year

  25. 25 Raul Estrada said at 8:11 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I swear to God that scene from LWMcQ was played by both Juan Castillo and Howard Mudd!

  26. 26 Anonymous said at 1:01 PM on January 1st, 2012:

    Funny. Hadn’t thought of it from that angle.

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 8:45 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I think Asante lost the proverbial step this year, he was cheating more than in the past, either playing a step or two deeper, or breaking on the ball a little early. It’s a subtle thing, but his PD are way down, a sign that he’s not getting there in time to make plays. This is not surprising, a player like Asante who depends on his quickness will age faster than a player like Aso who can use his size and long arms to compensate (see Al Harris, and Aso is a much better athlete).

    They should have taken whatever they could get for Asante in August, now I’d be surprised if they got a 4th for him, 31 years old in January, with $20M in salary the next two years, he’s awfully expensive for a guy with limited skills on the downside. As long as he made more big plays than any other CB his deficiencies could be overlooked, now you have zone CB who won’t play the run, I’d rather go after Finnegan if I’m a zone team, and a man coverage team won’t even look twice at Asante.

  28. 28 Anonymous said at 9:57 PM on December 31st, 2011:

    I don’t think that there is a chance in hell that McDermott goes after Samuel. I got the impression that Samuel and him clashed greatly.

  29. 29 Anonymous said at 1:00 PM on January 1st, 2012:

    I never heard anything about those two, but Asante is the kind of player who could drive any coach crazy. Could very well be that they didn’t get along.

  30. 30 Gary said at 4:02 AM on January 1st, 2012:

    Tommy, an off topic question:

    What’s your take on Jason Avant? I’m starting to feel like even if we re-sign DeSean, we could use a more dynamic #3 wide receiver. I look at Victor Cruz and Laurent Robinson emerging on our division rivals and I think we could use a guy like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love Avant and I would want to keep him on the team, but I feel like drafting a more explosive guy could really help us. Cooper impresses at times, but I don’t think he’s reliable. And while I understand it’s not easy to find a guy like Victor Cruz, I think we should try via the draft, even if we keep DeSean. What’s your take on this?

  31. 31 Anonymous said at 9:50 AM on January 1st, 2012:

    Avant is what he is, a reliable 3rd down target, who catches almost 70% of throws this way. Unfortunately, while he has similar physical skills, he’s never raised his game to the level reached by Boldin, and shows a distressing tendency to make mistakes under pressure (dropped 2 TD passes in 2010, some big mistakes in 2011).

    Cooper was a two sport athlete at Florida, only started as a senior, one of the guys really hurt by the lockout. He’s a first rate athlete (look at the long pass or the one last week against 3 defenders in a crowd) who has to master the short routes and become more consistent catching the ball. But if DeSean leaves, they’ll give him a long look as a possible replacement.

    They’ll look at drafting a WR, and signing a WR, if DeSean leaves. They may look at two different slots, one a WR with deep speed (though Maclin and Cooper, due to his size, can press defenses deep), one a slot type (think Amendola) to push Hall.

  32. 32 Steve H said at 10:04 AM on January 1st, 2012:

    Honestly I wish we’d scale back our offense to a more small ball approach and try to get Avant more involved in the gameplan. I think he could be a workhorse type guy and he’s deadly on the shorter routes where his route running more than makes up for his lack of top speed. I think if we focused more on the small ball attack that would open up some of the deep balls for Jackson and Maclin that defenses are constantly trying to take away.

  33. 33 Brett Smith said at 12:03 PM on January 1st, 2012:

    While this sounds like a really good idea I remember small ball and it was boring. Grinding and playing field position is a miserable existence for a Football fan. Think 2001-2002 and remember how painful small ball was.

    I think the mix we had this year was better… we run, we pass, we dropped TDs. Seemed like the only thing missing this year was the homerun plays we saw last year. Put those back in and it will be exciting next year.

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 12:59 PM on January 1st, 2012:

    I’ll write about Jason this week. Good question.