Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Nnamdi Means

Today, the Eagles shocked the NFL by getting CB Nnamdi Asomugha to sign a 5-year, $60 million deal to ply his trade in Philly. The Pro Bowl ex-Raider has just 3 picks in the last 4 years, mostly because every team that has come near Oakland has just been avoiding the holy hell out of him, really. As an Eagle, with the other side manned by the talented Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the incumbent #1 CB, Asante Samuel, there's much to go over. Namely...

1) Does this mean Samuel's gone?

Well, eventually everyone is gone; that's the nature of football, and it's really the nature of football under Andy Reid, where growing old gracefully is best done out of town. Samuel is getting close to 30, or the time when gambles start becoming losses. He was great for much of 2010, but the Reid Era has always been about today, not yesterday.

Having said that... I don't really know that he's gone. For starters, everyone in the league is going to think he's on the block now; not exactly the dealing from strength that the team did so well with the Kevin Kolb trade to Arizona. The Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Saints and more all beat you like a drum by going to WR3; it's really silly to think that, in today's NFL, that nickel bank isn't incredibly important.

There's also this: DRC isn't better than Samuel *today*. And today is all that matters to Reid, the longest tenured coach in the NFL, and a man who has to get the long lunch goodbye one of these years if he doesn't preside over a parade. For a year, especially after a trade, I think you can tutor DRC up, have him play the nickel, and thank your lucky stars that he's here when one of the top guys go down. It's not as if Samuel's an iron man out there, or that iron men exist at corner.

2) How much better does this make the defense?

In certain downs and distances, an almost immeasurable amount over last year's collection of Toast Patterson and Gone Hobbs; we never knew how much we missed Sheldon Brown until he was gone. (And hurt, for Cleveland. Even when it goes badly, Reid's decisions as a GM still make some sense.) But the trick is getting to those downs and distances. With the overrated but still tolerable exception of Jeremiah Trotter, this team hasn't had a quality LB in the entire Reid Era, which is why you kill this defense with a patient ground game, screens to the backs, and crosses to the tight end. It's really a fairly simple situation; if you are patient and you are powerful against Gang Green, you eventually kick sand in their faces and win. Get in long distance, and the quality CBs of the Reid Era make enough plays, and the esoteric blitzes generate enough heat. But if you keep playing little ball, you win.

Right now as presently constituted, the Eagles make for a hell of Arena Ball defense, and with the nature of the NFL -- i.e., holding penalties, missed execution, blown blocks, etc. -- even weak defenses get 15 to 20 long down and distance opportunities a game. Getting off the field on those is how you keep your scoring average down, but actually taking the ball away, and/or breaking the will of the opposition via random acts of effective violence... well, that's not what happens under Cap'n Andy. Which is why, even though the team has won more games than any other era, it's still felt wrong, like a transplant that didn't take. Eagle Fan doesn't want to win pretty; Eagle Fan wants to bloody you up. Nnamdi doesn't' really change that, and maybe in this era of football, it's best not to try...

But God in heaven, I want a linebacker. Maybe six of them, really.

Failing that, Asomugha just makes them what they were prior to last year's red zone meltdown; a play from ahead collection of pinball wizards. When what we all pine for is the second coming of Joyner, Evans, Thomas, Bergey...

3) What's the hidden joy of getting Nmandi?

The fact that he *isn't* a Cowboy, Giant, Packer, Saint, or anyone else that we'll have to worry about in the playoffs. Let's face it, two to three games of watching this guy obliterate DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin would have been distressing, especially if he went to a team with a pass rush. Keeping him away from the teams that could have used him more is a win, and not a small one, really.

(Oh, and the fact that he spurned New York and Dallas to come here? That makes him the football equivalent of Cliff Lee. And probably the hottest jersey in town.)

4) With this and the other signings, are the Eagles now the NFC Super Bowl favorite?

Hell and no; that team lives in Green Bay, and if you really want to be mean, it's also fair to point out that the Saints aren't exactly playing for dead, either. Team Green still needs to keep Mike Vick upright and conscious, has to integrate a lot of new parts, will go to war with a defensive coordinator hire that made everyone go wha?, and still lack any linebackers of real confidence. They also don't have rings on their fingers, and teams that knock on the door for a really long time... usually don't get one just by hanging around. Reid's game management is still what it is; a cold sweat nightmare waiting to happen.

But they are now the favorite to win their division, which gives them a 2 out of 3 chance to have a bye. They did keep the biggest catch of the FA market from their rivals. They did fix the biggest hole on the team. They aren't cap strapped; they didn't bring in a guy who has been a head case, and not being a head case to get the hell out of Oakland takes work, really. They got a guy who, more than anyone else on the current roster, looks like a guy who could wind up in Canton one day.

Championships aren't won in free agency. But they are lost... and today, my team didn't lose. Many of the clubs chasing them, however, did.

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