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Are The Eagles Better?

   by Hollywood Sports - 08/13/2011

The biggest move of the free agency period has been the Eagles' acquisition of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha who many consider to be the best cornerback in the NFL. While the Jets' Darrelle Revis may get more media attention and post better numbers, its hard for Asomugha to get comparable attention or stats when quarterbacks avoid his side of the field almost completely. With the acquisition of the Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (in the Kevin Kolb trade) to bolster a secondary already with the outstanding Asante Samuel, Philadelphia now has three elite corners. Speculation abounds that Philly will trade Samuel given this crowded secondary -- but keep in mind that defenses are playing more and more nickel packages even on second down which would allow coach Andy Reid put all three of these stars on the field at the same time. Even if Samuel is traded, many pundits consider that the Asomugha's addition to this defense makes the Eagles' defense nearly unbeatable. There is no question that any defense is better of with Asomugha on the field. However, the marginal return in adding a second top-notch cornerback has been exaggerated.

Cornerbacks that earn the reputation of being shutdown corners often enjoy the benefit of having their hype serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy in practice. Why throw at Asomugha when there are more vulnerable defenders on the field? Its not like the Raiders supported Asomugha with a bunch of Pro Bowl defenders. Asomugha can win his positional battle consistently while the opposing offense still consistently wins the war for yardage. With Philly placing Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Samuel on the field, quarterbacks will not have the luxury of targeting the weaker corner. But on the other hand, these stars will lose their luxury of not being targeted as well. Some of the shine may diminish off their respective armor in this scenario. Furthermore, its not like offenses will surrender in the face of two or three elite cornerbacks. Success in the league is about making adjustments. Opposing offenses will pound their rushing attacks. They will also use their tight ends (especially with more two tight end formations) to work the middle of the field while deploying their running backs in screen and safety valve passes that typically avoid the opposing cornerbacks. The Eagles defense will then have to adjust. And remember, the most important intangible that keeps elite cornerbacks looking good is an effective pass rush. If offenses can make adjustments that gives their quarterback even an extra second of time in the pocket, than even the Asomughas, Samuels and Rodgers-Cromarties of the league become vulnerable.

Don't get me wrong: Asomugha is outstanding and the Eagles defense only improves by bringing him in the fold. But too often critics take a fantasy league approach to these acquisitions where more is automatically better. It just does not work that way in practice. The importance of having one elite cornerback is tremendous. The subsequent importance of having a second (or third) elite cornerback suffers tactically from diminishing returns. Best of luck -- Frank.

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