Last year the Philadelphia Eagles had arguably the best cornerback trio in the league with Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel. At least on paper anyway.
That group did a good job but they weren’t as good as people expected them to be with three high-rated, big-named corners occupying the same defensive backfield.
Now that Samuel has been traded to the Atlanta Falcons, he gets to join Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson to form what will probably be considered this year’s top trio.
So why were the Falcons so quick to acquire Samuels when they already had two pretty competent corners?
Well part of that is because they want to matchup with the high-octane passing attack of the New Orleans Saints who are their main competition for the NFC South division crown. Another reason though is because of their poor showing against passing teams in the playoffs.
The Falcons have been to the playoffs three of the past four years and each year they were demolished by teams with strong passing games.
The Arizona Cardinals beat them back in the 2008 playoffs when they had Kurt Warner under center. The Cardinals went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
The Green Bay Packers crushed the Falcons in 2010 despite the Falcons being the number one seed and having home field advantage. The Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl that year.
And last year the New York Giants knocked the Falcons out in the first round. The Giants also went on to a Super Bowl victory.
The Falcons missed Grimes for the last four games of the 2011 regular season and their playoff game so having Samuel there gives them dept in case of injury but new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan also has other plans for Samuel. Nolan likes to play in a nickel defense which means he will be utilizing five defensive backs on most occasions.
Having three solid corners that can play in press coverage allows the Falcons to get more creative with their pass rush which was also a problem for the Falcons last season. The Falcons had a hard time getting to the passer but now they will be able to concentrate more people towards rushing the quarterback.
The Eagles struggled to incorporate all three of their corners last season but Nolan has used the nickel defense a lot over the course of his coaching career. He usually utilized a third safety as opposed to three corners but Nolan feels that having a third corner will help counter many of the multiple wide receiver formations that teams have started to use.
And that will be even more important for the Falcons this season when looking at the list of pass-happy quarterbacks they will face this year. The Falcons will face Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton twice, Drew Brees twice, Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford. Sounds fun right?
So it helps that Samuel will be on a mission to show his old team that they made a mistake by trading him. The Falcons and the Eagles will meet Week 8 in Philadelphia so look for Samuel to be at his best against his former teammates.
Judging by the Falcons schedule though Samuel will have plenty of opportunities to make plays throughout the season and this year he will play in a scheme more suited to his abilities. Let’s just hope that benefits the Falcons come playoff time.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.