Nnamdi Asomugha: Top 5 Teams New York Should Fear Even If Jets Can Sign the CB
If highly sought-after free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha indeed signs with the New York Jets, like Peter King of SI.com has reported as being a real possibility, the Jets would go from being an elite NFL defense to a downright scary NFL defense.
People always praise the abilities of Darrelle Revis because he takes away one side of the field, and the very same thing can be said about Asomugha. How many "sides of the field" are there?
This duo of cornerbacks would be unlike any in recent history. Both Asomugha and Revis consistently lock down opposing wide receivers on the outside; the Jets would have the luxury of deciding which corner would cover the other team's No. 1 target in any given game.
However, this is the NFL and there is talent all across the league. Teams will still be able to move the ball against the Jets, they're going to give up passing yards and points just like any other great defense would.
It won't be easy, but teams that can work the middle of the field would still pose matchup problems to a star-studded Jets defense including Asomugha. Here are the top five...
(There are 7-8 total teams that I considered when making the list. I reduced the list to my top five.)
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Obviously, the "Vick Factor" plays into the Philadelphia Eagles being the first team on this list. Anytime you have a weapon like Michael Vick playing QB, you have the potential to turn nothing into something. Even when all 11 men on a defense may correctly accomplish their assignment, Vick can bounce out of a disaster and make a highlight-reel play with his legs or a miraculous throw on the run.
Other than the obvious matchup problem of Mike Vick, the Eagles possess several other key parts on offense that the Jets would struggle to account for. Philadelphia has two tremendous wide receivers in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. One would assume that Nnamdi and Revis would be responsible for Maclin and Jackson, respectively. While the two wide receivers would be shadowed and silenced by the two stud corners, the Eagles have the ability to look elsewhere for offensive production.
Last year was a bit of a disappointment for him, but tight end Brent Celek is an above-average player who can work the middle of the field. The Eagles love to get him in one-on-one matchups with linebackers, and Celek often wins.
However, while the Eagles have some great pass catchers, their biggest asset against the Jets would likely be dynamic, young running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy possesses the ability to hurt a defense as a receiving threat out of the backfield, as well as running the ball between the tackles.
The Jets have two great inside linebackers in Bart Scott and David Harris, yet neither can stick with LeSean McCoy's elusiveness escaping the backfield on a pass route. McCoy is one of the most dangerous running backs in the league with the ball in his hands, and still has a lot of room to get better.
4. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have been one of the mainstays among the NFL's elite teams for the better part of the past decade. Clearly, most of that has to do with "The Sheriff" lining up behind center. However, Colts management has done a good job at surrounding Peyton Manning with enough toys to run the show on offense.
Within the Colts offense, there's always been a top-tier, No. 1 receiver that demands respect from opposing defenses. From Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne, Peyton has always had the luxury of having a Pro Bowl wideout on the outside of his offense.
The Jets, with Nnamdi and Revis, would be able to nearly erase the Colts' top two weapons at wide receiver, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. However, Indianapolis has more weapons than just two dynamic wideouts.
Too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers, Dallas Clark has been one of the most consistent tight ends across the league in recent history. Constantly on the same page as Manning, this combination has enjoyed a great deal of success since they've been together. Because of the two all-world corners on the outside, the Jets could likely afford to have one of their safeties shadow Clark; however, there are different targets all over the field that the Jets would have to worry about.
Austin Collie returns to the team from several head injuries suffered in 2010. Before he got hurt, Collie registered six touchdowns through six games, along with having games of 11 and 12 receptions, respectively. If he can stay healthy, Collie gives the Colts three reliable and dynamic weapons at the receiver position. No matter who your cornerbacks are, it's hard to cover three wideouts and a tight end as good as the Colts can put on the field.
3. San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are one of the hardest teams to predict in the NFL. On paper, they appear to have one of the most complete teams in the league, yet they always seem to stumble out of the gates. As a result, they are forced to fight for their lives to contend for the AFC West and make the playoffs.
The Chargers feature a solid running game with young running back Ryan Mathews and fullback/running back Mike Tolbert. It remains to be seen whether or not Darren Sproles will be brought back to San Diego, but most believe he's played his last down as a Charger.
While none of the team's backs are of the same caliber as LaDainian Tomlinson once was, they have a formidable rotation at the position that can provide a consistent ground game.
Vincent Jackson is a huge target for Philip Rivers. Even though Revis and Nnamdi may be the best two corners in the world, it would be hard to ask anyone to man up and shut down a 6'5", 230-pound target. Jackson would still be able to catch some balls over the smaller Revis, or Asomugha.
Obviously, the biggest matchup problem for anyone playing against San Diego is tight end Antonio Gates. Gates is the standard to which all ultra-athletic tight ends are compared. When the Jermichael Finleys and Jimmy Grahams of the world first became known names, they came along with the label of "the next Antonio Gates."
The Jets would be forced to give extra attention to Gates; on top of having a linebacker on him, they'd need to shadow him with a safety over the top. Gates has the speed and athleticism of a big wide receiver, yet is still every bit of 260 pounds. He is an athletic freak.
2. New England Patriots
The Jets and Patriots, as bitter division rivals, always play each other extremely tough. Besides the thumping that New England dealt New York on Monday Night Football, both teams are well matched and possess advantages over one another.
The Patriots feature the best quarterback in the world in Tom Brady. The guy is a living legend; whether you hate him or love him, everyone must admit that he's an incredible QB who is still at the very top of his game. Outside of Randy Moss' tenure in New England, Brady has lacked an elite, go-to, No. 1 wide receiver. Still, the Patriots have a plethora of players that they like to move around and create mismatches.
One such player is running back Danny Woodhead, who coincidentally started his career as a wide receiver for the New York Jets. Woodhead is a small, yet extremely quick and versatile player that can work the middle of the field and frustrate linebackers.
While the Patriots just drafted two running backs, as well as re-signed Sammy Morris, the combination of Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis still figures to dominate the backfield of New England's offense.
One of the main reasons I think the Patriots would present matchup problems for the Jets is the play of New England's young tight ends. While Rob Gronkowski appears to be the "blocker" next to fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, Gronkowski is an athletic player who found the end zone 10 times in his rookie season. Hernandez is a unique player; while only 6'1", 245 lbs., he still found ways to beat linebackers to the tune of 45 catches and six TDs through 14 games in his rookie year.
I highly doubt either Revis or Asomugha would be responsible for Hernandez or Gronkowski, so the Patriots could move either player around to create mismatches on certain players. It would be a fun chess game to watch—Brady versus Rex—but when Brady's on the field and Rex is on the sideline, the advantage has to go to Brady more often than not.
1. Green Bay Packers
I know, I know. Putting the defending Super Bowl champions at No. 1 on the list might be considered the "easy way out," but let's take a closer look at this one.
Last season, the Packers and Jets struggled through a defensive battle to the tune of a 9-0 score in Green Bay's favor. At the time, the Packers were still getting their feet wet as an offense playing without TE Jermichael Finley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury just a couple weeks earlier. Now, the Pack figures to be at full strength for the 2011 season, and they now have what might be the league's most impressive group of offensive weapons.
The Packers got through the NFC playoffs with a trio of running backs led by unproven rookie James Starks, Brandon Jackson and fullback-turned-running back John Kuhn.
This year, Green Bay's running game figures to be much improved due to the return of starting running back Ryan Grant and the third-round selection of running back Alex Green from Hawaii. Starks, Jackson and Kuhn quickly became Starks, Grant and Green. At first glance, that's a much-improved unit.
Last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lighting up defenses that knew the Packers were going to be air-oriented. This year, the Jets would have to respect the Pack's running game.
Led by the ultra-talented Rodgers at the helm, the Packers feature a wide variety of weapons. They may lose James Jones to free agency, but recently there's been talk that Green Bay wants to bring him back—specifically from Rodgers, who said Jones should be "priority No. 1" for the Pack this offseason.
At wide receiver, Green Bay features All-Pro Greg Jennings, savvy veteran Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and second-rounder Randall Cobb from Kentucky. Cobb is a versatile kid, as he played both quarterback and wide receiver in college, but projects to being a slot receiver and return man in the NFL.
The Packers present matchup problems for any defense; as Jon Gruden said following the Packers selection of Cobb on ESPN's NFL draft coverage, "The Packers' third and fourth receivers are simply better than your third and fourth corners." This is true with most teams around the league, including the New York Jets.
While Green Bay may in fact have the best group of wideouts in the league, the biggest matchup problem in the green and gold is tight end Jermichael Finley. J-Mike has shown glimpses of superstardom early in his career.
He passed up a basketball scholarship to Arizona for the opportunity to play football at Texas. The guy is an unbelievable athlete. If the NFL has seen anything close to Antonio Gates the past several years, Finley is it.
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