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Free Agent Focus: Jon Asamoah

March 3rd, 2014
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah

Ranking just behind his Kansas City Chiefs teammate Geoff Schwartz on a lot lists about the top free agent guards in 2014 is Jon Asamoah, making him a potential target for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.

Asamoah (pronounced AH-suh-MO-uh) is not coming off his most successful season, losing his starting job at right guard to Schwartz towards the end of the year. But that doesn’t really portray the reality of how Asamoah’s career in Kansas City could potentially end if he walks in free agency.

Asamoah lost his job due to both injury and less than ideal play. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 11 against the Denver Broncos, being limited the following week in practice. Schwartz replaced him as the starter at right guard, and his performance against the San Diego Chargers in Week 12 led to his keeping the job for the remainder of the season.

But Asamoah gave the Chiefs mostly solid production over the past three seasons since assuming the starting right guard spot after the departure of long-time veteran stalwart Brian Waters. His +8.9 Pro Football Focus grade in 2011 was second-best on the team behind only left tackle Branden Albert that year. He followed that up with a +15.0 grade in 2012, tying right tackle Eric Winston for the best on the roster. While there was a decline from Asamoah in 2013, his +7.9 grade still earned him third-highest on the roster and better than all but 19 of 80 other guards with significant playing time last year.

And it’s more than likely the decline of Asamoah had more to due with a shift in blocking scheme installed by new head coach Andy Reid than any decline in skill. Clearly, his Pro Football Focus grades indicate Asamoah fared well in the zone-blocking scheme employed under the previous regime. While the Chiefs didn’t completely scrap zone-blocking under Reid, there was more of an effort to become more of a straight-ahead smash mouth rushing attack, which is more in line with what Reid had in Philadelphia.

Over the years, the Eagles offensive lines under Reid featured massive blockers such as Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan and Jason Peters at offensive tackle and Shawn Andrews, Jermane Mayberry, Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans inside at guard and center, all of whom are north of 320 pounds and some over 340. When Reid made the decision late in his tenure to switch to a smaller group coached by Howard Mudd, it resulted in disaster for the Eagles.

The lighter, 305-pound Asamoah just doesn’t fit that sort of style as well as the 340-pound Schwartz.

Any questions surrounding Asamoah center on whether he could fare better with the Falcons, a team in desperate need of upgrading the play at right guard.

Strengths:

  • Athletic and very effective blocking on the move on stretch plays and getting downfield on the second level
  • Has good feet and does a nice job staying in front of speed in pass protection
  • Young, developing player with still room to grow

Weaknesses:

  • Not very big or powerful to create consistent push off the line
  • Will give up ground to powerful interior pass rushers
  • Has had a few nicks and bruises the past two years causing some slight durability concerns

How He Fits in Atlanta…

Pound for pound, I would probably argue that Asamoah is a better player than Schwartz. Asamoah is not blessed with Schwartz’s size and strength, but he’s a much better athlete that does arguably more with measurably less.

But whether Asamoah is a better fit in Atlanta is largely dependent on scheme. And based off the scheme that the Falcons have run over the past six years, Schwartz is the better option between the two. The Falcons run more zone-blocking under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter than they did under Mike Mularkey, but it’s still an offense that relies mostly on man-blocking and creating push as a “smashmouth” run team. There’s a reason why the Falcons have preferred their running game be headlined by bigger, physical backs like Steven Jackson and his predecessor, Michael Turner.

That lack of zone-blocking is one of the reasons why Jacquizz Rodgers’ production has been limited in three seasons with the Falcons. Rodgers is simply a square peg in a round hole, a player that is much more adept at getting east and west than north and south. Asamoah wouldn’t be any different if the Falcons offense maintained the status quo schematically.

It’s not to suggest that Asamoah wouldn’t be an upgrade to what the Falcons current options at right guard are, but he’d be likely underachieve based off what his potential is. He’s not a guy that you should be asking to generate consistent push off the line as a straight-ahead man-blocker. At best, he’d probably be average in that role. Again, average might be better than what the Falcons have gotten in recent years at right guard, but considering that Asamoah will likely be paid much more than an average guard, it’s not a sound investment.

Obviously, the Falcons could opt to bring in Asamoah and employ more zone-blocking looks in 2014 and beyond. Rodgers would benefit from that and Jackson shouldn’t suffer to any significant degree since unlike Turner, Jackson was capable of running the stretch play, the signature run of any zone-blocking scheme, in St. Louis. If the Falcons intend to lighten Jackson’s load moving forward and mix Rodgers more into the lineup as St. Louis did with Daryl Richardson in Jackson’s final year there, it would make sense to add a player like Asamoah.

But installing a zone-blocking scheme isn’t exactly what new position coaches Mike Tice and Wade Harman are known for. In their previous jobs in Chicago and Baltimore, respectively, both preferred bigger, stronger offensive linemen that could maul defenders.

Not to mention, the Falcons don’t feature a roster rife with players that would fit well in a zone-blocking. Sam Baker shined in a zone-blocking scheme during his college days at USC, and Joe Hawley, Harland Gunn and Ryan Schraeder may also be good fits there given their smaller size and/or lighter feet. But other potential starters like Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Gabe Carimi, and Lamar Holmes would likely struggle in the zone scheme. All would likely need to shed weight this offseason to be better able to move like the zone scheme requires.

A player like Konz could really struggle since the zone scheme requires interior players to be able to block in space as well as get downfield and block on the second level, things that Konz has really struggled doing thus far in his short NFL career. Not to mention the hallmark of Wisconsin’s blocking scheme during Konz’s playing days there has been their powerful, man-blocking scheme. Given the team seems prepared to give Konz another shot to earn a starting spot, it wouldn’t make much sense to then put him in a scheme where he’s likely only going to get worse.

Thus, if the Falcons were to target a player like Asamoah, it would more than likely be an indicator that the team is doing a poor job evaluating their own roster as opposed to signaling that there is an impending shift in offensive philosophy.

I do think Asamoah is a very good guard that could make some team very happy this offseason, I’m just not sure that team plays in Atlanta.

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