Expectations: Asomugha and the DBs

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has never played on an NFL team that finished better than .500 (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer).

Leading up to Sunday, I will go position-by-position and player-by-player to preview what could be in store for all 53 members of the current Philadelphia Eagles. Click here for the breakdown on the running backs, here for the linebackers  here for the wide receivers and here for the defensive line. Today, we move on to the defensive backs, covering both cornerbacks and safeties in one post.

Asante Samuel - The numbers from last year are insane. Samuel was targeted just 36 times (according to Football Outsiders) and allowed 3.2 yards per attempt, tops in the league. Better than Darrelle Revis. Better than Nnamdi Asomugha. Despite only being targeted 36 times, Samuel still came up with seven interceptions, tied for second in the league. To put that into perspective, he created a turnover once every 5.14 times the ball was thrown his way.

But that was 2010. And things are clearly going to be different in 2011 with Asomugha, not Dimitri Patterson, on the other side of the field. Teams will throw more at Samuel, which could result in more interception opportunities, or more big plays for the offense if he gambles and loses.

If the preseason is any indication, Samuel's role won't change much. He'll stay on the left side of the field, play off coverage and read the quarterback like he always does.

Nnamdi Asomugha - I'm not sure there's a bigger upgrade around the league at one position than Patterson to Asomugha. What's most interesting about this signing is that the ninth-year pro is going to be asked to do things differently for the first time in his career. In Oakland, he perfected his craft as a shutdown, man corner. Now, he's enthusiastically taking on different roles - moving inside, covering the tight end, even blitzing. We'll see if that was just for the preseason or if Juan Castillo really plans on using him in a variety of ways. Asomugha was targeted 31 times last year, the least of any cornerback who started at least 12 games, according to Football Outsiders. With Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the field, that number too is sure to go up.

In seven of Asomugha's eight NFL seasons, the Raiders won five games or fewer. They never finished above .500 or made the playoffs. Overall, 37-91 (.289).

Now he joins a franchise that made the playoffs six times in that span, making it to a pair of NFC championships and one Super Bowl. Overall, 79-48-1 (.617) since 2003.

But still no Lombardi Trophy. Asomugha becomes one of the keys in helping Andy Reid and company reach that final goal.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - He played 1,132 snaps last year. That was second-most in the league, behind Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan, according to Pro Football Focus. Now, in his fourth NFL season, the speedy cornerback takes on a new role. In the preseason, he played everywhere - slot, right corner, left corner, you name it. My guess is he will be used primarily in the slot, and the Eagles will play a lot of nickel.

Rodgers-Cromartie was targeted 90 times last year and 99 times in 2009. The results were mixed as he struggled in 2010, but was outstanding the year before. He'll see his share of action once again this season.

Castillo is clearly intrigued with the thought of using Rodgers-Cromartie's speed and blitzing him from the slot, but given his history as a poor tackler, I'm not convinced that's going to work out well.

Joselio Hanson - I'll mention the numbers once again. Hanson allowed 4.4 yards per attempt last season, second in the league among cornerbacks with at least 40 targets. And he was a sure tackler, allowing just 1.5 YAC, tops in the NFL. The Eagles restructured his deal and brought him back to add to their already strong group of cornerbacks.

It'll be interesting to see if he's used primarily in dime packages when the Eagles go with four corners, or if Hanson steals some snaps away from Rodgers-Cromartie in nickel early in the season.

Brandon Hughes - He made the team with a strong preseason, and the 25 year old adds depth and versatility. He also figures to play a role on special teams, if the preseason was any indication.

I don't see Hughes getting on the field unless one of the four corners ahead of him suffers an injury.

Curtis Marsh - The third-round pick impressed with his athleticism at training camp, but didn't look as good in the preseason games. He should consider this a redshirt year, unless the Eagles suffer a rash of injuries. Marsh will likely be inactive on most gamedays.

Kurt Coleman - He probably had one of the most impressive training camps/preseasons of any player on the team. Coleman is as close to a sure thing as the Eagles have at safety. He proved last year that he's a sure tackler and seems to know what the coaching staff wants out of this defense.

Having said that, he was OK, but unspectacular as a rookie in 2010. Coleman still has a lot to prove, and the Eagles will be putting a lot of responsibility on the second-year player.

Jarrad Page - He's playing for his third team in three years and is the most experienced safety on the roster. Page had some good moments in the preseason and has 40 career starts and 12 career interceptions.

Because of Nate Allen's injury, Page will start alongside Coleman to start the season.

Nate Allen - It's been a rough preseason for the Eagles' second-year player. Allen is still recovering from a ruptured patellar tendon and lost his starting job to Page. There's no telling when Allen will be at 100 percent, and the truth is, he struggled at times in coverage as a rookie.

Allen has to be frustrated, but all the Eagles can do is wait and see how he progresses with the injury.

Jaiquawn Jarrett - We haven't seen much from the second-round pick, and it sure seems like he's been hurt by the shortened offseason. Jarrett went from potentially starting to likely being inactive on gamedays, at least to start the season. If the safeties ahead of him struggle or suffer injuries, Jarrett could get a shot. But at this point, we might have to wait until 2012 to really see what he can do.

Colt Anderson - As I mentioned yesterday, the Eagles have to feel good about their decision to keep Anderson on the roster after watching both the Packers and Saints score on returns Thursday night. The special-teams ace is a difference-maker on Bobby April's coverage units and will be active every week. I wouldn't expect to see him on the field much (meaning, at all) on defense.

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