Nnamdi Asomugha: Why Teams Should Avoid Shutdown Cornerback

Andrew MasonCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2011

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 the Oakland Raiders looks on from the sideline against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 28-13.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Much attention has been given to Nnamdi Asomugha if and when this lockout ends, as he is seen as one of the game's shutdown corners and teams are expected to lineup and be ready to fork over some big bucks to have him. 

But is having that coveted completely shutdown cornerback—Revis, Woodson, Bailey, Samuel—overrated?

It can be, but more often than not, the answer is flat out no.

Yeah, they are great because no matter who you are playing you know that your cornerback should be able to shutout the other team's number one receiver no matter what (hopefully).  

Theoretically, he automatically takes out usually the opponent's most threatening option unless the team's biggest threat is a QB like Vick or a RB like Peterson, Johnson, etc. 

But when do having these megabucks star corners cause more harm than good?

When you start overpaying them and crippling your team cap situation, and you decide to skimp on other parts of the defense. 

Here are the top five paid CBs in cap value from 2009-2010 per USA Today:

Champ Bailey: $13.7 million-Broncos

Asante Samuel: $10 million-Eagles

Dunta Robinson: $9.95 million-Texans

Darrelle Revis: $7.9 million-Jets

Charles Woodson: $7.4 million-Packers

The five players' teams finished 12th, 19th, 17th, first and second in points allowed per game. Three of them made the playoffs, and two others finished 8-8.

The stats certainly look sexy, and making the playoffs certainly looks great, but stats can also be misleading sometimes.

For instance, the Bills were second in passing defense, but their defense was terrible. Why? No run defense.

Teams did not need to pass when they can gain 150-plus yards on the ground. 

Making the playoffs also look great, but is it worth it to be investing so much money in shutdown corners?

Again no.

Woodson can be seen as the exception, but only because the Packers won it this year.  But even then, much more attention on his defense was given to his front seven guys, particularly Clay Matthews who had a stellar season.  

Then Revis and the Jets have made the AFC Championship game twice in a row but have lost both times.

In 2008-09, Arizona beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship game with Samuel and the Eagles let up four passing touchdowns letting Fitzgerald catch three of them.  

Samuel was on the Eagles defense, and they still got torched through the air.  So what exactly is the purpose of having that No. 1 corner that you are paying $10 million if he's not out there shutting down the opponents No. 1 wide receiver, much less one of the best in the game?

Defense is a the definition of teamwork.

Now take a look at Nnamdi Asomugha and the Oakland Raiders defense.

In a contradiction of myself about stats be misleading, I do offer these stats for consideration.  

This year they finished 20th in points per game and were 27th in passing TD allowed or fifth worst. Gave up 30-plus points, five times. They finished 8-8 in the second weakest division in football.  

So how much impact did Asmougha have on the Raiders?  

It does not appear to be too much.  Though without Asmougha, they might have been the worst defense in football.

But when the rest of the secondary is being torched that bad, one might have to reevaluate the need for that shutdown corner who is making superstar money if you are simply going to skimp on safeties and the other cornerbacks because you have so much money tied up in one guy.

Unless you have other guys who can also play in the secondary and in some cases of defense, the front seven may be even more important.

So why exactly are teams lining up to make Asomugha one of the highest paid players when his team's passing defense was one of the worst in the league?

Super-stud cornerbacks are overrated and worthless if there is no supporting cast around them.

Defense is clearly a team concept. 


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