Let’s go Quincy all over this thing. For you young people, Quincy was CSI for those of us lucky enough to grow up in the 1970s. My favorite episode…I digress.
Asante Samuel is now a Falcon. The Eagles got a 2012 7th round pick for him. That’s right, a 7th. We got a 6th for Joe Mays. How the heck did Asante only get us a 7th? The Falcons really got the best of Howie Roseman, huh.
Yes and no. Let’s look at the situation as a whole.
Asante came here in 2008. Jim Johnson ran the defense and the scheme was focused on blitzing to create turnovers. Asante was a great fit. He played off coverage and used his instincts to make quite a few big plays. The scheme continued under Sean McDermott and Asante played well for him.
This all changed in 2011. It wasn’t the hiring of Juan Castillo, but rather the arrival of Jim Washburn that really brought about the beginning of the end. Washburn doesn’t blitz. He lets his DL do the pass rushing. In order for his attacking style to work, the DBs need to play more press coverage.
Asante can press. He chooses not to. Asante wants to play off so that he can read the QB and then break on the ball. Pressing means turning and running with the receiver. The CB’s back is turned to the QB. There is much less chance to play the ball.
The Eagles set about changing the style of CBs last spring. They drafted Curtis Marsh in the 3rd round. He is a big, fast CB that can press. The team targeted DRC in the Kevin Kolb trade. DRC is another big, fast, press corner. Asante was going to stay at LCB and the coaches were going to figure out the best way to make things work.
A funny thing happened on the way to the season. Nnamdi Asomugha was headed to NY or Dallas or some other team (I’m drawing a blank). Quietly the Eagles talked to his agent and then late on a Friday afternoon it hit that he was signing with the Eagles. Great move. Sort of.
Suddenly the Eagles had Asante, DRC, and Nnamdi. That is 3 talented CBs and none that fit the slot. The Eagles got offers for Asante. They considered sending him to Detroit, but in the end didn’t pull the trigger. My guess is that they expected to make a Super Bowl run and felt that keeping all 3 CBs was the way to go. This proved to be a big mistake.
DRC moved to the slot and struggled. This had nothing to do with coaching or effort on his part. He’s a tall, fast CB. Those guys are built for outside, not the slot. Even a guy like Joselio Hanson who is perfect for the slot said it took him about a year to really adjust to the move.
DRC had a bad year for the first 8 to 12 weeks. He returned from an injury and got more playing time outside. DRC had his confidence back and started to show his ability.
Nnamdi, DRC, and Marsh are all over 6-feet tall. DRC is light at 182 pounds. The other guys are closer to 200. All of them are speed corners who can press and be physical. This is what the Eagles want outside. Asante is 5-10, 185 and likes to play off. He is the odd man out.
I think Asante could see this from last August onward. He knew the writing was on the wall and his play was erratic. I know that PFF and FO can make it seem like he was an elite cover guy last year, but that’s not the whole truth. Asante free-lanced more than ever. That created chaos for the young DBs around him. They never knew what he would do. His tackling was as poor as ever. There were even times when he would run away from plays to avoid contact.
Asante had to go. Simple as that. There was no bringing him back. A defense needs 11 guys on the same page. If 10 guys execute their assignment correctly, the offense can still burn the defense for a big play. You need all 11 on the same page. This cost the Eagles big time against the Cardinals. Juan Castillo and Jaiquawn Jarrett looked foolish, but it was Asante that was on his own and not where he should be. I’ve had this confirmed by multiple sources. This isn’t my opinion.
Is Asante still a good CB? Hell yes. He has the best ball skills of any CB in the league. He has very good instincts. He can be tough when he chooses to. Asante remains a gifted cover guy.
So why trade him and not try to figure some way to use him? He doesn’t fit the new style of defense that both Washburn and Castillo want to play. Are they dumb for wanting the new style? I don’t think so. The NFL now is a passing league. More and more QBs are throwing quick passes that make it harder for DL to pressure them. One way to throw off the timing of the short throws is with press coverage. In order for press coverage to really work, you need all CBs doing it.
So why is ATL willing to take the risk? The Falcons have struggled with pass defense. Even worse, not only do they not cover well, the CBs aren’t playmakers. All CBs combined last year had 5 INTs. The year before, Brent Grimes had 5 INTs and the rest of the CBs had 3 as a group. Asante can cover and make plays. The Falcons will have to adjust their scheme to his style of play, but they must feel that is worth it. They do have a veteran DC in Mike Nolan. He can figure out a way to do what he wants and deal with Asante’s issues.
So what happened with the trade? There were several teams hot on Asante’s trail back in March. They all had serious interest. One team worked out a deal with the Eagles for a 2013 mid-round pick. All they had to do was get Asante to re-do his deal. Asante was asking for a 6 to 7 year contract with enough money involved that he would see at least half of the deal. The team thought this was just a negotiating tactic. They waited a day and got back with his agent. Demands were the same. Waited another day. Demands were the same. The team said thanks, but no thanks. They weren’t committing to Asante for several years.
Things got real quiet for a couple of weeks. I think Asante started to see that no team was going to meet his demands. The Eagles really wanted the deal done before the draft so they lowered their asking price and suddenly several teams were back in the hunt. Asante ended up signing with the Falcons for 3 years, $18.5M. He was due about $20M over the next 2 years so he took a serious pay cut. Sounds like Asante wanted to go to Atlanta.
The Eagles didn’t get close to good value in the deal. His farts should be worth a 7th round pick. However, it was time to get the deal done and move on. I think keeping him around and hoping for a better deal would have been a mistake.
In the past the Eagles have been too value oriented in some trades and have gotten burned. This time they took a crappy offer. I hate that they didn’t get more, but I am glad the deal is done. I don’t think it helps a team to have a player around that either doesn’t want to be here or who the team doesn’t want here. That creates an awkward locker room and it gives the media some strange fodder.
Asante was a good signing. He did some real good things in his time here. The Eagles paid him a lot of money, but got good play from him. Even last year when things got a bit weird, Asante had some terrific moments and games.
This isn’t the ending any of us wanted, but I’m glad the Eagles didn’t let it drag on. Nothing good was going to come of keeping Asante around. Let’s focus on the guys who are here and who will be on the field in 2012.
DRC and Nnamdi will be the starting CBs. The slot position is a competition between Joselio and an early to mid round pick. Marsh might even get a chance to play some slot, as he did in college. Brandon Hughes could get a shot in there. Hughes and Marsh will be the top backups on the outside.
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I’m working on the Eagles Draft Preview and will post as soon as I’m done. It will have all kinds of lists of players I want, don’t want, and that type stuff.