When veteran corner Jabari Greer went down with a gruesome-looking leg injury against the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints lost more than just a valuable player, they lost a true battle-tested defender with many wounds and scars to his credit.
When a Super Bowl-caliber team loses a player with wisdom, it can only be replaced by a player with that similar trait.
The subsequent signing of second-year corner Trevin Wade, as reported by Katherine Terrell of Nola.com, is like putting a Band-Aid where stitches should go. It may be decent for the time being, but when the moment of truth arrives, will you really be able to stop the bleeding?
The Saints have an excellent player to step in for Greer in second-year corner Corey White. His physicality, aggressiveness and ball skills will be a wonderful addition to the secondary—on a regular basis. But his lack of experience will only be heightened not playing with a true veteran.
Experience-wise, veteran corner Chris Carr is the most seasoned. But even in his prime, Carr was average at best. In nine seasons he has seven interceptions, along with just 29 passes defensed.
In addition, he's on his fifth team and has virtually been cut, and re-signed, every other week by the Saints this season.
The best corner, Keenan Lewis, is only in his second year as a full-time starter. Lewis was afforded the benefit of playing with a seasoned star in Pittsburgh Steelers' corner Ike Taylor. Lewis sat the bench for three seasons before being a primary corner in the Steelers' rotation.
The only other corner on the depth chart is rookie Rod Sweeting, who has been collecting splinters in his butt the entire season.
That makes Wade, White, Lewis, Carr and Sweeting the corner rotation of one of the best teams in the NFL.
That's not good enough. Wait—let me be specific: That's not accomplished enough.
Where's the multi-time Pro Bowler? Where's the player who's achieved All-Pro status? Where is the person with enough stripes to warrant the attention of a young player like White?
Those were rhetorical questions, as we all know where he is. He's sitting at home watching romantic comedies with one of the most beautiful women in the world in actress Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Scandal, I think I Love My Wife)—who happens to be his newly wedded wife.
His name is Nnamdi Asomugha.
Asomugha is one of the greatest corners of this generation (three-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro). His blend of size, strength, physicality, intelligence and overall corner acumen was once unparalleled.
His tenure with the Raiders (2003-2010) was at times breathtaking. For fans of physical corner play, it didn't come any better than Nnamdi. Under coordinator Rob Ryan, Asomugha was allowed to play man coverage virtually 99.9 percent of the time, using his length to frustrate receivers.
Yes, that Rob Ryan—the current defensive coordinator of the Saints. Having press-man corners allows for Ryan to go extremely exotic with his coverage disguises and blitz schemes.
Schemes he has really yet to show, due to the allotted personnel.
Lewis, who at times looks like the new Asomugha, fits the scheme to perfection. He's a fiery corner with a mean press-technique. But he's at his best in off-man and zone coverage.
White is too young in his career to really know what type of a player he is. We know he's physical and has pretty good ball skills. But we also know he is prone to mistakes and is extremely raw.
It's hard to have question marks at such a pivotal position like corner.
Make no mistake: Asomugha is not in the same stratosphere as he used to be. His two seasons spent with the Philadelphia Eagles were an utter disappointment. But a lot of that had to do with being a scheme misfit, as the Eagles played a ton of zone.
As a free agent this past offseason, Nnamdi actually chose the San Francisco 49ers over reuniting with Ryan in New Orleans. It was hard to blame him considering he's native to the area.
But now the stars have realigned for both parties to do what's right. And both would do so on the best team they've ever been a part of.
What makes this team so special is that it's full of people with something to prove. Head coach Sean Payton is coming back from a yearlong suspension, Ryan was fired by his last employer and the team as a whole played well below standards in 2012 (with the defense being the worst ever).
Bringing in a player most have completely written off—including both of his last employers—fits right in with the theme of the season.
And Nnamdi himself is still a schematic match.
Now that the Saints are settling into Ryan's scheme, they are playing a lot less zone. Lewis is starting to shadow the opponent's primary receiving threat, with man-to-man underneath in a Cover 1 shell being the coverage of choice.
For Ryan to mix in stunts and blitzes, corners need the ability to press and throw off route timing.
The defense is starting to dig deeper into the playbook with exotic looks like this one. There's only one lineman on the field, and even he (Cameron Jordan) is standing up. These types of looks put pressure on the back end of the defense to hold up.
When you factor in that Ryan likes to use both safeties near the line of scrimmage, having a veteran corner (in addition to Lewis) that has been in these situations is paramount.
These are the types of packages that will take the Saints to the top. Ryan has a ton of these in his playbook that he has yet to unleash. The fact that it took him until the 49ers game suggests he's not totally warmed up to his personnel.
The 6'2", 210-pound Asomugha would allow for Ryan to feel even more comfortable with providing exotic looks to the opposition. Most will say Nnamdi has lost a step, but that's easy to say when a player is not utilized to his full capabilities.
The fact that Lewis would be on the No. 1 threat would afford Nnamdi the chance to play against lesser talent. But it would also allow White to kick inside, where his physicality has been utilized to cover and blitz, which would in turn keep safety Roman Harper out of man coverage.
The way the scheme is set up, Nnamdi would get to operate in the short game mostly—something he's still very good at.
Here we see Nnamdi defending a quick hitch. He gives up outside leverage to use the sideline as an extra defender. He's initially expecting a 9 route, but his experience allows him to quickly readjust.
His route recognition is an aspect of his game that helps him where his athleticism might fail him. He knows that he doesn't have the time to get his head around to locate the ball because of the depth of the route. So he uses his long arms to cover ground and break up the pass.
His veteran leadership would be an excellent replacement for Greer, but his skill set would take a good group of corners to the next level.
The Saints are a Super Bowl-bound outfit. They can't afford to leave any stone unturned. They need all the experience they can find, and Asomugha could be plugged right in.
With inexperienced players, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when they will let you down. Don't let it be in the playoffs.
Bring Nnamdi to town...and his wife.
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