What To Make Of Nnamdi Asomugha

Rob Carr - Getty Images

How you feel about Nnamdi Asomugha depends on how you look at him.

If you look at him through a lens you could buy with the $11 million Asomugha will make this year, you can't help but be frustrated with his play. He has been beaten at big times this year, has no interceptions, and has allowed a touchdown while his counterpart who makes 1/6 of what he does has been outstanding.

But if you look at him without taking money into consideration, he has been pretty effective as a #2 corner back. He has allowed only 6 catches in 4 games and only 1 touchdown.

In many ways he is the Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia Eagles- no matter how he plays, fans will expect more because of the money he makes. Every catch he allows will be magnified. Fair or not, that is the reality. Asomugha has not lived up to his contract and is nowhere near the shut down corner Eagles fans thought he would be when he came from Oakland. That is what fans are going to think until shown otherwise.

But the reality is that Asomugha's play has been somewhere in between. He has not been a complete disaster, but has also shown some major flaws in his game.

One thing is clear when watching the tape- Asomugha is not a great athlete, and it's killing him. In Oakland, he was successful because he was able to push the receiver off his route and force the quarterback to give up on his man. He also still had decent speed in Oakland, so he was able to run with the receivers he covered. In Philadelphia, neither of those things have been the case.

Against the New York Giants on Sunday night, the Giants were able to beat him by absorbing the contact at the line, and then just running by him. Asomugha is not athletic enough anymore to move up at the snap to make contact, and then back peddle and catch up with his man. Two prime examples came in the 4th quarter as the Giants were driving to take the lead.

With 8:42 to go in the 4th quarter, Asomugha was lined up against Giants wideout Ramses Barden. At the snap, Asomugha moved up to push Barden off his route, but Barden was able to get out of the way and run right by Asomugha. Barden created space between him and Asomugha, ran down the sideline and hauled in an Eli Manning pass for 31 yards.

On the very next play, Asomugha was lined up against Domenik Hixon. Instead of creating contact at the snap, Asomugha moved up slightly to cover Hixon, but when Hixon ran a slant route, he had about 2-3 snaps on Asomugha in a matter of seconds. The short pass went for 41 yards and brought the Giants all the way down to the Eagles 8 yards line. Two plays later, the Giants scored a touchdown to take the lead.

That's 72 yards on 2 plays in the 4th quarter to Barden and Hixon. That isn't exactly giving up long plays to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Asomugha should be able to contain those two- with or without safety help.

Now obviously those are just 2 plays, and to say that Asomugha is a complete liability in coverage would not be fair. The 72 yards he gave up on those 2 plays is a little over 2x's what he has given up in the previous 3 games combined (32). This season he has been in pass coverage for 152 plays and has allowed only 6 receptions on 15 targets. That's an average of less than 2 catches a game. Those are numbers the Eagles will live with from of their #2 corner. That is, of course, if you consider him the team's #2 corner.

Still, the Eagles have to be concerned about what they have seen from Asomugha- especially heading into Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have perhaps the quickest set of wide receivers in the NFL. In addition, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best in the league at extending the play while still looking down the field. This could be a big problem for Asomugha, who is going to have to chase around Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders all afternoon. The Steelers could get some big plays by sending them on quick slanting routes vs. Asomugha, or through broken plays where he has to cover any of the 3 for an extended amount of time.

Asomugha's play almost cost the Eagles the game on Sunday. If he doesn't improve against the desperate, 1-2 Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Eagles will likely not be as lucky.

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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