Cornerback Play Could Define The Eagles Defense In 2013
By Scott Daniels
Solid cornerbacks: They are an essential element to a successful defense in the NFL. Suspect or inconsistent play at this position is a serious liability for any team. If you are vulnerable against the pass, pass-happy quarterbacks will expose you. And the wide-receiver talent at the pro level is nothing short of ferocious.
Effective cornerback play in Philly has been surprisingly atrocious over the last few years. Nnamdi Asomugha was dubbed the king of corners when he hit the free agent market in 2011. His stint in Oakland as a “shutdown corner” mysteriously elevated him from the depths of mediocrity to the best cornerback west of Revis Island. Unless you watched every Oakland Raiders game, which at the time was like watching replays of Waterworld, Asomugha’s ability to shutdown receivers was more folklore than anything else.
Asomugha’s hype attracted just about every team in the league, but no one saw the Eagles coming in at the last second to acquire him. Asomugha was to be paired with Asante Samuel and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie in what was supposed to be a ridiculously assembled secondary that, even on paper, would make coaches think twice about an aerial attack.
Well we all know how that worked out.
Asomugha was a flat out bust. He was virtually picked on by opposing quarterbacks, and he never lived up to the $60 million he was awarded by Eagles brass in 2011. But the organization is not to blame for the poor corner play over the last years. After all, they appear to have done everything they could in acquiring talent at the position.
With the Asomugha experience thankfully in the past, the Eagles enter a new era with a lot of new things. A new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, a lot of new shiny draft picks and, as you might have guessed, a new set of cornerbacks. As of now, it looks like Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams will be responsible for shutting down the pass. They’ll be playing alongside newly acquired safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips, creating an entirely new secondary for the Birds in 2013. Chung and Phillips were nice additions on paper, but just like we saw with Asomugha, that means nothing.
Fletcher has operated under the radar for the last few years, but the Eagles feel he’s underrated. When the expectations are relatively low, this addition is a low-risk, high-reward move. As for Williams, his stock soared after the Ravens won the Super Bowl last season, but there are still question marks surrounding him. He’s prone to giving up the deep ball, so will likely require help from his safeties, but overall, he’s a serviceable player.
With the spotlight on Kelly and his enigmatic offense, new defensive coordinator Bill Davis has the ability to be creative while inserting his desired players. Fletcher and Williams have a heavy burden this season. Should they underperform, the spotlight could shift to a defense that historically has thrived, but lately, struggled.