I have just one major beef with Sean McDermott's style, and that's his usage of the cornerbacks and how they line up pre-snap. For years, both under McDermott and the late Jim Johnson, the Eagles corners play one side or the other. They did it that way when it was Troy Vincent-Bobby Taylor, they did it during the Lito Sheppard-Sheldon Brown days, they did it with Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown, and they continue to do it today with Asante Samuel and (fill in the CB). The "#1 corner" plays the left side, the "#2 corner" plays the right. But there's a huge difference between the Jim Johnson days and this current team - The Eagles have always had two good corners. This year they have precisely one.
On Sunday, the Packers used that strategy against the Eagles by employing 1 WR, 2 TE sets that essentially negated Samuel as a player. Here's how they lined up on several occasions (please excuse my 3rd-rate X's and O's):
Greg Jennings was typically the receiver lined up out wide to the Eagles' right side (Patterson's side), while the they employed a 2 TE set to the Eagles' left side, essentially making Samuel somewhat of a linebacker. Because the Eagles refuse to stray from the philosophy of moving their corners around, what you have here is Dimitri Patterson covering a fantastic WR in Jennings, while your star corner not only doesn't have a receiver to cover at all, but is also now a liability against the run. What makes it all the more frustrating is that Patterson is actually a nice run defender that isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. This was a nice design by Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was counting on the Eagles to not vary from their philosophy, and it created big mismatches.
I asked McDermott about that formation, and whether or not he planned on moving his corners around a little more next season, to which he replied, "We'll see." So, in other words, probably not.
Now that isn't to say that I think Sean McDermott did a bad job this season, or that we should all be lining his block with pitchforks and torches. The stubbornness of not moving the corners around aside, I actually think McDermott did a solid job with the hand he was dealt. If I were to ask you how many defensive players started yesterday that didn't start Week 1, without thinking about it, how many would you say off the top of your head?
The answer: 6. That's right... 6. More than half of the defensive unit:
|Position||Player||Round drafted||Week 1 starter?|
While we're on the topic of corners, there was some interesting news out of Oakland yesterday. Nnamdi Asomugha's contract will be voided, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There will be fans of every single NFL team that will be saying "OH MY GOD, WE'VE GOT TO GET HIM!!!" But in this case with the Eagles, it just makes TOO much sense. With the Eagles having dumped so many salaries over the past few years (Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Stacy Andrews, Shawn Andrews, Sheldon Brown, etc), and probably a few more players that may not be Eagles in 2011 (Ernie Sims, Kevin Kolb, and dare I say... Stewart Bradley?), they should be in a position to make a strong move for Asomugha. While Asomugha will turn 30 in July, I believe he falls under the Terrell Owens category of former Eagles free agent possibilities in which they say "Screw it... he's older than we'd prefer, but he's just so freaking good."
Signing Asomugha would instantly turn Eagles' biggest need heading into the offseaon into the best corner tandem in the NFL. It would also afford them the ability to go after other severe need areas in the draft (I'm looking directly at you, right side of the OL). I hate to be the "OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO GET HIM" guy and set off a string of articles reminiscent of Anquan Boldin circa 2009, but... Oh my God, we have to get him.