Any drops of good will gathered by Nnamdi Asomugha for his performance against Calvin Johnson and the Lions spilled onto Lincoln Financial Field Sunday. The critics are back in full throat and more fed up than ever at their $60 million cornerback. Asomugha, like the rest of his defensive teammates, was largely ineffective in a 30-17 loss to the Falcons.
The tape confirms what many have contended: that the 31-year-old does not possess the kind of recovery speed necessary to be a shutdown corner. Not anymore. But there is more to the story. The blame does not rest solely on Asomugha’s shoulders.
Let’s start with the 63-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones that gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead.
Asomugha is lined up over Jones on the outside. Kurt Coleman is in the box to help with tight end Tony Gonzalez, leaving Nate Allen as the lone deep safety. Asomugha offers Jones free release, which in hindsight was a regrettable move.
“Yeah, probably [should have jammed]. You can’t go backwards on it, but yeah, probably I would have changed it up,” said Asomugha.
Asomugha could have executed better, no question. However, Jones — boasting 4.3 speed — is a difficult matchup for anyone, and Asomugha receives no help on this play. As the next still shot illustrates, three Eagles defenders are protecting the middle. Meanwhile, three Falcons receivers are releasing downfield. Allen is stuck in no-man’s land.
All that’s left is for Jones to win the foot race and for Ryan to execute the throw. No problem on either account.
Asomugha was left one-on-one with Jones and the Eagles only rushed four on the play. Doesn’t seem right.
Next up is a 14-yard pickup by Roddy White on a cross. The Eagles are playing man. Todd Bowles will send both Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans on a blitz, leaving the middle of the field wide open.
The Falcons could not have asked for more. The other three receivers pull the rest of the secondary deep, leaving nothing but green for White.
The last play we’ll examine is a wide receiver screen to Jones in the third quarter that went for 37 yards. The cornerbacks did not bump much at the line in this one, and that’s the case on this play. Asomugha gives Jones a little bit of a cushion at the onset. White, lined up to the inside of Jones, will run a pick.
Jones starts out as if heading downfield, then peels back. Asomugha tries to adjust but White is closing in and is in perfect position to wipe him out. (The refs initially threw a flag on White before determining that the block came within the extended neutral zone.)
Mission accomplished. Asomugha ends up on the ground, and Jones ends up with a caravan of blockers paving the way towards a big gain.
“It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to come out and for us to put that out there,” said Asomugha. “We’re a better team than what we showed today.”
On all three plays, you can find fault in the corner. But credit also has to go to the Falcons for play-calling and execution. And Bowles has to take some of the heat for leaving his players in vulnerable positions.
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