Didinger: Asomugha and Eagles shock the league

Didinger: Asomugha and Eagles shock the league
July 30, 2011, 3:34 pm
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Nnamdi Asomugha once was asked if he had a favorite quotation.

Patience is a virtue, he said.

It was appropriate considering Asomugha went through his entire career -- high school, college and pro -- and played on only one winning team. It also fit because as the most feared cover corner in the NFL, he spent most Sundays watching quarterbacks throw the ball to the other side of the field. No one dared challenge him.

So Asomugha always seemed to be waiting. Waiting for the opportunity to make a play. Waiting for the chance to play for a winner. Waiting and waiting

In the end, maybe thats what brought him to Philadelphia. By signing with the Eagles on Friday in a move that sent shock waves across the NFL, Asomugha put patience aside and joined a team that is built to win right now.

After playing eight seasons in Oakland, Asomugha finally had his shot at free agency. This was his chance to write his own ticket. Money wasnt the issue, really. He knew he would strike it rich; that was guaranteed. A dozen teams were pursuing him, all with their checkbooks open.

But Asomugha wanted to sign with a team that had a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. He had seen former teammate and fellow cornerback Charles Woodson do it when he left Oakland for Green Bay. Woodson now has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. As he studied the free agent market, Asomugha kept Woodsons example in mind.

Asomugha just turned 30 and he is aware the clock is ticking. If he is going to win a Super Bowl, he had better do it soon. He agreed to a five-year deal with the Eagles, but he is thinking in more immediate terms.

Patience may be a virtue, but there comes a time when you have to put that aside and push your way to the front of the line. Thats what Asomugha has done, signing with a team that will now be among the favorites to win it all in 2011.

The deal was a stunner. Almost no one saw it coming, certainly not the New York Jets. The Jets thought they had the 6-2, 210-pound cornerback locked up. They had visions of pairing him with their All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and giving coach Rex Ryan the best secondary in football. It would be announced any minute, people said.

Then out of nowhere the Eagles swooped in to sign Asomugha, rocking every NFL war room from New York to San Francisco and leaving Eagles fans slack-jawed asking: Is this for real?

Yes, it is.

Give the Eagles credit. This was like stealing a Picasso from the Museum of Art right before closing time. The Jets are probably right now studying surveillance video trying to spot either Joe Banner or Howie Roseman to figure out how they pulled off this caper.

Why would Asomugha pick the Eagles over the Jets? The Jets went to the AFC title game each of the past two seasons under Ryan. You could make the case they are closer to winning a Super Bowl than the Eagles.

But keep in mind the AFC looks like a tougher road than the NFC. The Jets will have their hands full just getting past New England in their own division. The Jets also have young Mark Sanchez at quarterback while the Eagles have a resurgent Mike Vick coming off his best year. In a quarterback-driven league, the Vick factor looms large.

Both teams will be among the preseason favorites. Asomugha couldnt go wrong either way and whichever team he chose would immediately become that much better. He chose the Eagles. If you are a Philadelphia fan, all you can say is, Wow.

The thought of the Eagles teaming Asomugha with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and, oh yes, Asante Samuel (almost forgot about him) is mind-boggling. You have to wonder if there is still another shoe to drop in the form of a trade. Can the Eagles afford to tie up that much salary at one position? If the Eagles wanted to move, say, Samuel, it wouldnt be hard to find a taker.

But thats a story for another day.

For now, this is all about Asomugha and what he brings to the team. Much has been said about the University of California product and it is all true. Believe the hype. Asomugha is as good as advertised.

The term shutdown corner is thrown around a lot and often overused. Samuel really isnt a shutdown corner. He makes big plays, but he doesnt take away one side of the field as, say, Revis does or Woodson or Champ Bailey did in his prime. Asomugha can do that. When he covers a receiver, he takes him out of the game.

Quarterbacks rarely throw to his side. According to STATS, Inc., he has allowed only one touchdown pass in the last three seasons. But what really separates him from other guys at his position, Asomugha is physical. He is a strong, solid tackler who will aggressively force the run.

In short, he is a complete player.

During the season, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger and I watch a lot of tape. One night, Brian said: You want to see what great cornerback play looks like? He clicked on the computer and there was Nnamdi Asomugha, crouched at the line, arms extended, ready to jam another receiver at the snap of the ball.

Play after play, Asomugha blanketed the receivers, running with them stride for stride, always in perfect position. He didnt trash talk or play to the crowd. He just took care of business. Only one pass was thrown in his direction and he tipped it away.

I could watch this all day, Brian said. It is like a clinic.

This season, Nnamdi Asomugha brings his clinic to Lincoln Financial Field.

Who knew?

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

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