Last week, I started things with scouting Sean Weatherspoon. Now it’s time to look at the Falcons only major pre-draft off-season addition still with the team: Asante Samuel, and what skills he brings to the table in 2012.
Pros: Samuel is an instinctual cover corner with good ball skills, awareness, and excellent anticipation. Does a good job challenging throws when he’s in position, and makes quarterbacks have to work to complete passes against him. Will jump slants and outs, able to make the big play. Does a solid job working in both man and zone coverage. Plays balanced and has good hips to match up man to man. He’s comfortable playing in space. Hard to beat deep due to his ability to play deep zones. Does a nice job covering crossing routes as well. Does his best work when he’s allowed to play off coverage, which allows him to keep things in front and read the quarterback.
Cons: Is lacking and lazy in run support. Is a poor tackler with bad technique, as he tends to duck his head and rarely wraps up. Relies too much on chopping legs of defender in open field, which is effective at times but very inconsistent. Doesn’t work to get off blocks, and tends to shy away from run support assignments, letting the other 10 guys on the field do most of the work. Too often gives up too much cushion when working in off coverage. Can be attacked on the deep posts for those reasons. Will get caught looking in the backfield at times, and give up the easy completion. Can get burned due to his gambling ways, biting on double moves. At times will leave his safety out to dry because he’ll bite on the underneath pattern and leave his safety on an island deep. Can be effective in press, but not good when asked to try and jam receivers at the line.
2012 Outlook: Samuel is a ball-hawk that has earned a strong reputation over the years for his ability to create turnovers and make the big play. While he’s not always the most disciplined corner, that reputation has allowed him to get away with things that lesser corners probably could not. This means he’s a “field-tilter” because opposing quarterbacks tend to shy away from him, and effectively takes his man out of the play, allowing his teammates to channel things to the opposite field. His struggles in run support are well-known and well-documented, but the Falcons are hoping that limiting his exposure there by playing him in the nickel will streamline his production.
Samuel gets away with a lot because of how dangerous he is to throw on. He’s capable of matching up with the league’s top receivers and over the past few years in Philadelphia has been one of the league’s most consistent producers. Akin to Brent Grimes, essentially teams fear him and don’t throw at him as much. The Falcons hope that having two guys like that on the outside will make a significant improvement to their pass defense. This of course is only going to be effective if the defenders in the middle of the defense carry their own weight as well. So while Samuel certainly should elevate the play of his own position, it can potentially have a detrimental effect to other players on the field because they are going to be worked a lot more. And if they are unable to do their jobs and elevate their own play, the added benefit is negated.
This is the problem the Eagles ran into a year ago, namely because players like Joselio Hanson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Nnamdi Asomugha struggled at times with the added workload. The Falcons will try to avoid that problem. While Grimes is no stranger to a lot of work (see 2010 season), the Falcons must beware of how much it effects Dunta Robinson who will be playing the slot.
But overall, I have very little issue with Samuel doing his job and whether he by himself will be a very effective corner. If the other pieces fall into place, then his presence could really upgrade the Falcons pass defense and get them a few steps closer to achieving their goals against the league’s top passing attacks.