Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Reasons Why O.J. Atogwe Will Not Earn a Starting Job
O.J Atogwe was a very sought after safety on the open market last summer before he signed a five-year, $26 million deal with the Washington Redskins. He was released after only one injury-riddled season with the Redskins. He was a free agent once again but wasn't signed until the Philadelphia Eagles inked him to a one-year deal.
Atogwe can still help out an NFL team. How and what exactly his role will be is debatable. He's far less explosive as he once was, and he may be too injury-prone to be trusted as a full-time starter.
Atogwe is still a good safety in the NFL. He's one of the smartest safeties in the league and is a reliable tackler in the open field. He could earn a starting role had he signed with a team that was still either rebuilding or had a major hold at free safety. The Eagles are clearly not that team.
Here are the five biggest reasons why O.J. Atogwe will not be the starting safety for the Eagles in 2012.
1. Nate Allen
In order to determine what a free-agent's role will be with his new team, you first have to consider the other players at his position. This isn't 2009. O.J. Atogwe isn't competing with Macho Harris. He's competing with Nate Allen.
Allen has been the Eagles' starting free safety for the majority of the past two seasons. He was taken in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. He has been the starter every since, when healthy. He tore a patellar tendon in his knee late in the 2010 season and wasn't fully recovered early in the 2011 season.
Allen got a lot of criticism for his play in 2011. It's unfair to judge a player that early after under doing major knee surgery. He started five of the first nine games and clearly wasn't himself. The Eagles went 3-6 through the first nine games and just 2-3 in his first five starts.
Allen didn't play in a Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals but got healthy during his week off and started the final seven games in 2011. The Eagles went 5-2 in his final seven starts, as we started to see what Allen is really capable of.
The O.J. Atogwe from five years ago would have a tough time beating out Allen for a starting job. Nate Allen is the free safety for 2012. That won't change unless he suffers a major injury. As free safety is concerned, Atogwe is just a really good insurance policy, not a threat to start.
2. Kurt Coleman
OK, so O.J. Atogwe won't be the starting free safety, but what about the other safety position? Kurt Coleman is currently the starting strong safety. Could O.J. Atogwe beat out Coleman and start next to Nate Allen is 2012?
Coleman and Allen have their safety spots locked down, thanks in part to how they played together during the final month and a half of the season. Coleman isn't a freak of an athlete like the Ed Reed's of the NFL, but he always seems to be around the football.
Coleman finished second on the team in tackles and first in interceptions. He isn't a physical impressive player at 5'11" and just under 200 pounds. He doesn't have to be. Think of him as the anti-Taylor Mays. He plays the game with an unquestioned amount of effort and a very high football IQ.
The combination of Allen and Coleman is not a duo I would want to split up at this point. Both players are entering their third season. The Eagles won four out of their last six games with these two safeties starting. That's an impressive stat for a team that was as dysfunctional as the Eagles were last season.
You also have to consider the fact that Atogwe is better served as a free safety. Playing him out of position over a younger player who would be playing at his ideal position just doesn't make sense.
Atogwe probably becomes the Eagles' top backup safety at both positions, ahead of Jaiquawn Jarret at strong safety. At this point in his career, the 31-year-old Atogwe is just a very valuable backup.
3. Knee Injuries Have Greatly Slowed Him Down
Back in 2009, the signing of O.J. Atogwe would have been the perfect move. Since then, the Eagles have added more talent at safety while Atogwe has been on the decline, highlighted by his measly eight starts in 2011 with the Redskins.
Atogwe missed eight starts in 2011 while battling hamstring, toe and knee injuries. The fear with him is that he can't stay healthy, and even if he could, he isn't the same player he once was.
You can't start a player at a position like free safety who's usually the last line of defense if he lacks speed. You also have to carry a reliable backup free safety in order to prepare for his eventual injury.
Atogwe can either be a valuable backup safety or a very risky starting safety. Injuries will most likely make him a quality backup.
4. Lack of Interest from Rest of the League
When the Vikings and Lions don't want to add you to your secondary, even with a cheap one-year deal, there's something wrong.
The Eagles signed Atogwe three months after free agency began. That should tell you that he isn't the same player he once was. Legitimate starting free safeties don't last three months in free agency. They last maybe three days.
When the 26th-ranked and 22nd-ranked passing defenses don't want a former top-notch free safety, there's clearly something wrong. We won't know exactly what type of player Atogwe can be at this point in his career until we see him at training camp, but it is clear he isn't a top-five or top-10 starting free safety anymore.
If he was, he would be dawning either a Blue or Purple uniform this season, not the midnight green.
5. Atogwe Is a Valuable Backup
I love the idea of Atogwe as a really valuable backup. He has been a capable starting free safety since 2006. He is an outstanding blitzer and a great addition for the film room.
Atogwe can be a really good blitzer in nickel and dime packages. It allows the starters in the secondary to stay in coverage without giving up one of the Eagles' best cover men while still sending a very capable blitzer out of the secondary.
He has 5.5 sacks for his career which isn't overly impressive, but sacks never tell the whole story with a blitz. It's always more about putting pressure on the quarterback and showing him a different look.
I like his veteran presence in the film room as well. You can never have too many of those. The more veterans you have who can break down film, the better. He can serve as a good mentor for both Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman.
Whenever you have a younger free safety, you want to put an experienced player behind him. That way, the defensive coaches are only developing one free safety with the help of a veteran at the position as well rather than trying to develop to free safeties.
Atogwe's ability to fill in as a starter when needed, blitz in certain nickel and dime packages and to go along with his knowledge in the film room make him one heck of a backup defensive back.
This isn't a move that is going to get fans excited, as long as they realize he won't be starting, but it will go along way in helping the Eagles become a truly elite defense in 2012.
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