Why Philadelphia Eagles Will Thrive with Nnamdi Playing in the Slot

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 14, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18:  Nnamdi Asomugha #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after a play against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Every team's best cover corner should cover every opponents best receiver, right?

It just makes sense. Put your best against their best. But what do you do if their best receiver isn't an outside receiver? What do you do if their best receiver is tight end Jason Witten or slot receiver Marques Colston or Victor Cruz?

For the Eagles, the answer has still been to keep their best cover corner on their best receiver, no matter where he lines up. This has resulted in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha lining up on the inside. He has covered tight ends and slot receivers as well as his usual task of containing outside receivers.

The Eagles will most likely keep Nnamdi at his outside corner spot on first and second downs, but should move him to the inside in the nickel package on third downs and in the red zone. He won't always move to the inside, but should when he faces the likes of Marques Colston, Victor Cruz, Jason Witten and Jermaine Gresham.

The Eagles moved Nnamdi around a lot in 2011. He had his share of success and failure while defensive coordinator Juan Castillo played around with him for a little bit, but he did find success on the inside.

The Eagles put Nnamdi on Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten twice during the 2011 season. Witten finished with just eight receptions for a whopping 52 yards and no touchdowns. The Eagles outscored the Cowboys in those two games 54-14.

Clearly there has been some success with Nnamdi in the slot.

He isn't Charles Woodson. He can't be used as a roaming safety, but he can cover any receiver in a press man coverage. That is where the confusion begins with Nnamdi playing in the slot.

He is an outstanding press corner. That is what makes him great. He isn't a zone corner and he isn't the versatile player that Woodson is. He can press and cover any type of receiver all over the field. He can take on some of the league's most athletic tight ends on the inside and the most skilled wideouts on the outside.

It would be wise to match a player like that against the best the opposing team has to offer.

The biggest key to the Eagles success with Nnamdi as a situational slot corner will be the ability of their outside cornerbacks. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was outstanding all throughout training camp. He is a natural outside corner. He won't be the issue here.

The other outside corner, who will step in on nickel packages where Nnamdi moves to the slot, will be the issue.

Curtis Marsh figures to step in this role. He has good size at 6'1", 197 pounds and also runs really well. He is also really unpolished at the corner position. He started his college career at running back until making the switch to corner, but he has really only played corner for about four years now.

That is a concern on these nickel packages where he will match up against starting outside wide receivers. The Eagles can give him plenty of safety help, but he will be a concern if he fills in this role until he proves himself on the field.

The main argument against playing Nnamdi in the slot is that he should just stay on the outside.

I couldn't disagree more.

The NFL does not have simple offenses. The quarterbacks who run these offenses can tear any defense apart if they know what the defense is doing. You have to throw out some different formations and schemes and you have to more players around.

Juan Castillo should have a better idea of how to make Nnamdi work better in the slot.

The Eagles have two better fits on the outside when he moves to the inside as well. He should play more like a corner, either on the inside or outside, and completely do away with the idea that he can play as a roaming safety. Nnamdi is a press cover corner specialist—regardless of where he lines up.

If they keep him in that role, he will get back to shutting his man down on a more consistent basis.