The Philadelphia Eagles have finally decided to release former shutdown cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha after two disappointing seasons. While he was renowned in Oakland for quarterbacks refusing to throw in his direction, Asomugha was routinely ranked among the worst defensive backs in the league during his years in Philadelphia. He struggled in the slot, he struggled in zone coverage, he struggled in off man coverage, and he struggled to defend the run. The two season experiment in Philadelphia exposed Asomugha: he is not a complete cornerback.
However, NFL fans must realize that it is not necessary to be a complete cornerback to be a good cornerback. Antoine Winfield is far better defending the run than he is defending the pass, yet he is considered a top tier cornerback (and now a great free agent, since he also got released). Similarly, the reason Asomugha was so good in Oakland was because he was consistently playing in tight man-to-man coverage – remember, he completely shut down Larry Fitzgerald and other top name receivers. It was the switch to things that aren’t tight man-to-man coverage that proved to be Asomugha’s downfall. No one wants to admit it, but he shut down Calvin Johnson, Jr. in the game against Detroit in 2012 for three quarters. It was in the fourth quarter that the Eagles decided to switch him to zone/off man coverage and, surprise surprise, Megatron went off.
This is actually the reason why the New England Patriots probably shouldn’t sign Nnamdi Asomugha. Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia employs a ton of zone/off-man coverage, and would likely misuse Asomugha in the same manner the Eagles misused him. I’ve been frustrated more than once to see the Patriots in off-man coverage when the opponent is on the 5-yard-line, so unless there’s a major change in the defensive philosophy, I don’t think it would be an outstanding pickup for the Patriots.
You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.