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.
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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.