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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Asomugha is a star, but suitors have reason to be worried

Nnamdi Asomugha is arguably the best cornerback in the game, but most teams would be wise not to break the bank for his services when he bangs the open market.

Not that Asomugha isn't worthy of controlling top dollar as a close down corner, but there are numerous factors that should create break before somebody snatches up the perceived crown gem of the free-agent class.

Recent history has proven that championship teams don't need the presence of a Pro Bowl corner. While the Packers were the exception in their journey to the Lombardi Trophy, recent Super Bowl victors haven't relied on the play of a star cornerback.

Part of that can be attributed to the increase in zone-based coverage like the Tampa-2 and various zone-blitz schemes. Asomugha would surely help teams requiring to get after the quarterback with pressure and leaving their cornerbacks in quarantined matchups, but it is not a requirement to have great one-on-one corners to thrive within the zone schemes growing throughout the league.

There's also the question about Asomugha's affect on a defense. No one refuses his skills or ability to blanket one half of the field, yet you wonder if he truly makes his unit better. Even with Asomugha's three straight Pro Bowl nods from 2008-10 and heading a pass defense that ranked in the top 10 each of those seasons, the Raiders didn't finish in the top 10 in sum defense during that span.

Asomugha has 11 career picks, with only two picks coming over the past three seasons, to go with two forced fumbles. Considering he's faced just 98 pass attempts since 2008, respectfulness for his game limits the number of chances to create turnovers.

Still, the lack of turnovers goes beyond Asomugha's fear factor. The fact that he has primarily played right corner has also limited the amount of pass attempts he's faced. The right side is considered the weaker of the two cornerback spots because most quarterbacks are right-handed and the majority of throws head in that direction -- and challenging the left corner.

Different than some elite cornerbacks who shadow the opponent's top receiver, Asomugha has typically remained his assigned side. While he had success moving around more in 2010, teams have been able to find their No.1 receiver by moving him away from Asomugha when they face the Raiders.

In comparing his output to other elite corners, Asomugha falls well short in the turnover category. Champ Bailey (48 interceptions and six forced fumbles), Charles Woodson (47 interceptions and 22 forced fumbles) and Asante Samuel (42 interceptions and five forced fumbles) are not only excellent cover guys, but they've shown a consistent ability to get their hands on the ball.

Darrelle Revis, the cornerback often touted as the game's best, has made more total turnovers (14 interceptions and two forced fumbles) in four fewer seasons than Asomugha's 13.

Given the impact of turnovers, teams should seriously investigate whether Asomugha can do enough to justify the hefty commitment an interested team like the Texans would have to make. The same goes for expected suitors in the Lions, Bucs, Eagles and Cowboys.

Teams are reluctant to commit big money to aging players, so the fact that Asomugha is 30 is a concern. He could be nearing the end of his athletic prime and his skills will start to diminish on the middle of his contract. That's an even greater possibility when you consider how he uses his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame to maul receivers in bump-and-run coverage. That physical style of play could takes a toll over an lengthened career and could diminish his skills faster.

Asomugha is believed to be the final piece to a championship puzzle, but you wonder if his age and lack of production will turn into a case of buyer's remorse in a few years for the team that gives him a monster contract.

Asomugha is a star, but suitors have reason to be worried Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Admin


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