Nnamdi Is The Key

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chalkboard

If Nnamdi Asomugha is a washed-up bum, we don't need him. But if he's actually a good player who got stuck in the wrong system in Philadelphia, we probably still don't need him.

 
Quick Out, March 17, 2013

In a strange way, Nnamdi Asomugha may be the key to the entire Saints defense.

That’s not to say that we need him. If he is the key, then we don’t. Because the players the Saints already have are good enough.

Hear me out. In 2011, Asomugha was the top free agent, and the crown jewel of Philadelphia’s “Dream Team.” Probably half of all NFL fans would have said that he, not Darrelle Revis, was the best cornerback in the league. [Full disclosure: I'm one of them. I still think Revis would be an average corner at best if his constant hand-checking were flagged as it should be. On the other hand, I also believe that by the proper—i.e., pre-1978—standard, he's one of the greatest who ever played.]

Then, suddenly, Asomugha became a stiff. Was it the big payday? Was it the allegedly anti-social attitude? Was he simply overrated all along?

Or was it the scheme? Did the imposition of a new (and miserably inadequate) defensive scheme have anything to do with the fact that all of Philadelphia’s defensive talent suddenly turned into stiffs? I think you can tell here what side I come down on.

The same thing happened last year in New Orleans. A new defensive scheme suddenly turned a personnel group largely consisting of Super Bowl winners into “the worst defense in NFL history [sic].” Now, our defense, truthfully, was only adequate to win the Super Bowl. But when you have a Lombardi in your trophy case, “adequate” is just fine. Why did they suddenly, to a man, become inadequate overnight?

The answer, I believe, was that Spagnuolo’s tactics will only work if you have a world-class pass-rushing machine up front. The Saints didn’t, and don’t. But what they did (and do) have, is probably one that is adequate if it plays in a scheme that matches and supports its talent level.

The same goes for Asomugha. He flourished in Rob Ryan’s Oakland defense. He was a bum in Philadelphia under Juan Castillo. Which was the real Nnamdi?

And which was the real Saints defense? The (nearly) good-enough-to-win-it-all squad under Gregg Williams, or the clowns and klutzes that took the field for Steve Spagnuolo? I’m willing to bet the problems we had last year were almost entirely scheme-related, and that in fact the Saints’ talent level is much better than most people think. Similarly, I’m willing to bet that Nnamdi Asomugha still has it in him to be a star in the NFL. I wonder if Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis believe the same thing…because they’re meeting with him today.

Posted by Himself in Quick Out | 3 comments

3 Comments

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  • PhilistineMarch 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

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    “…Spagnuolo’s tactics will only work if you have a world-class pass-rushing machine up front. The Saints didn’t, and don’t. But what they did (and do) have, is probably one that is adequate if it plays in a scheme that matches and supports its talent level.” I definitely agree with this. The Saints under GW applied pressure by trickeration, and had pretty stout talent in the defensive backfield to give the trickeration time to develop. After they dropped Sharper and age caught up with Gay, the Saints couldn’t bolster the DB and FS positions fast enough and we got all Vernon Davis’ed.

    I’m willing to bet the problems we had last year were almost entirely scheme-related, and that in fact the Saints’ talent level is much better than most people think.

    This actually contradicts the first statement, which says that scheme needs to match personnel. While the overall talent level may well be better than people think, they’re average overall. This is no grand injustice. Unless you live in Lake Wobegone, average is the area of the bell curve that most people dwell. Rob Ryan’s system will hopefully match better with personnel, and the Saints should do better this year.

    Regarding Asomugha: do the Saints need another high-end DB more than they need a DE or OLB of similar stature? Do they need a versatile TE more than an upgrade at left tackle? Most importantly, how much will each of these things cost, and can they afford it? They still have draft picks to pay. I’m inclined to think that Asomugha will get more money than Keenan Lewis, despite his tarnished reputation, and the Saints will have to look elsewhere. We’ll see. Can’t hurt to kick the tires on the fancy Mercedes on the lot, even if the sticker price is too high.

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    • HimselfMarch 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm

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      This actually contradicts the first statement

      Not really. The Saints’ defensive talent is certainly better than “all-time worst.” It remains to be seen whether or not Ryan’s system suits them better, and I never said it did. But I bet it does.

      As for Asomugha, I didn’t mean to imply that the Saints would, or should, sign him. Only that I’d be okay with it, because I don’t buy into the idea that his time in Philly “exposed him.” I think that his time in Philly exposed Juan Castillo.

      I think what the Saints need more than anything else (on defense) is a true 3-4 nose tackle, a Casey Hampton type who can occupy two blockers and deny the middle of the field to any offense. I don’t think Brodrick Bunkley is that guy. I think Akiem Hicks could be that guy, and that leaves us with a starting line of Jordan/Hicks/Smith. That might do it, at least for a season, until we can add another true 3-4 end.

      But I also think Hicks could be the next Richard Seymour, and I’d rather have a big, immovable block of granite in the middle and let the hyperathletic Hicks play on the outside.

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  • cc58March 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

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    If only we has a second round pick…There are a couple of true NT, DTs that will be there in the second round. I like Jonathan Jenkins, out of GA, and Brandon Williams, out of Missouri Southern. Jenkins was 346 lbs at the combine, down 13 lbs from the senior bowl, and still was a top performer on the bench press, with 30 reps. Williams at 335 lbs had 38 reps on the bench press, at the combine.
    Jenkins is projected 2 round, and Williams, is projected 3rd.
    If we could trade down, say around 24th in the first, I take JJ, with the first pick, and hopefully we would have a second round available from the trade. I know, not too likely, but in a prefect world….

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