The pairing of Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel has not worked out the way most people expected. The question is why has it failed, and in my opinion, the Eagles should have known it would fail from day one.
When the Eagles signed Asomugha for $60 million, most Eagles fans were excited.
I originally wrote last offseason that Asomugha would be a solid addition, but that was before they traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Once the trade for DRC happened, I assumed the Eagles would spend money elsewhere.
It turns out they should have. Asomugha is a solid NFL cornerback, but he does not fit well into the Eagles' defensive scheme. For years, the Eagles have been a zone team. Asomugha excels in man-to-man, physical in-your-face coverage.
So the casual fan says, well, the Eagles should change their defense to accommodate Asomugha's skill set. The problem with that theory is that Asante Samuel is the complete opposite of Asomugha. He is not a man-to-man defender at all. He is a zone defensive specialist who excels in the zone scheme.
The Eagles have tried a quasi mix with Asomugha playing man and the rest of the defense playing zone. It simply does not work, because just one guy cannot play man coverage—it creates way too many holes in the zone.
That's why the secondary has not covered well this season. The cornerbacks do not fit well together.
DRC was playing the nickelback, and he has never played the nickel spot in his career. Again, the Eagles' signing of Asomugha put DRC in a position he was unfamiliar with and not comfortable playing.
The Eagles had very little offseason to learn what type of players they have. It is hard to adjust a scheme with limited offseason, and the lockout hurt the team in that regard.
While there is no denying Asomugha's talent, his signing was probably the biggest reason our defense has struggled. It has put Asomugha and his teammates at cornerback all in positions or playing schemes they are not comfortable in.
My last article was written about why Jason Babin is the most frustrating player on the Eagles defense. While I understand some people disagreeing, the fact remains Babin sells out the run on every play.
While you could argue to take him out on running plays, the Eagles are committing a lot of money to Babin, so he has to play most snaps to get value back for that huge contract.
I see the same thing with Asomugha.
He has to play, and the Eagles have to find a way to utilize him to justify his contract. That likely means Asante Samuel will be traded in the offseason and the Eagles will switch to a man-to-man scheme with DRC and Asomugha as the primary coverage guys.
If the Eagles can get a high pick or a good LB or safety for Samuel, then they will likely do that.
However, the Eagles have shown with McNabb and Kolb they will not make a trade just to move someone. If they don't get their asking price for Samuel, he will remain an Eagle.
The reality is the current cornerbacks do not work well together, so someone has to go. In reality, I wish it was Asomugha, because I like Samuel and what he brings to the table. However, with the contract situation, the odds are it will be Samuel.
The good news is the entire offseason will let the Eagles learn how to scheme better for next season. This year, they just did not have the time or the knowledge of the players they signed to devise a scheme that would work.
My prediction is that changes in 2012 and the Eagles will be back on top of the NFC East.