I was away on a family trip over the weekend -- got to witness in person Charlie Manuel and Michael Stutes taking an easy win away from Vance Worley -- and among the things I missed out on was a tweet from Asante Samuel offering a suggestion for reading material.
This was most opportune, because I just finished that Danielle Steel novel Asante lent me. Went through a whole box o' Kleenex, but it was worth it!
Anyhow, this time, Asante wanted to draw my attention to a blog post from bloggingthebeast.com, which posted that Asante does more than just cherry-pick interceptions, he doesn't get thrown at a lot, and he is rarely beaten. The post cited metrics from Football Outsiders, which gave Asante the league's best "success rate" defending passes in 2010, and its lowest yards per attempt. The final numbers for 2011 aren't in yet, but the post author was able to ascertain that Asante would have been in the top 5 in both categories through 13 weeks of last season.
None of that is particularly surprising to me. I have never been among No. 22's harshest critics. My feeling has always been, if you throw at him long enough, he'll make you pay with a pick that more often than not will end up being a pivotal moment in the game.
But to me, that doesn't mean Asante's critics are all crazy, or that the Eagles shouldn't trade him, as they almost certainly will by the end of the month.
Most of the Asante backlash is about tackling. Another group, Pro Football Focus, a few months ago released its tackling ratings for corners, and Asante ranked 91st out of 101, which isn't real good. It's almost as bad as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (98) or Nnamdi Asumugha (100).
Here's the thing: What do you need most from your corners in the passing-crazed NFL of 2012? I don't think tackling is what gets a corner the big bucks. If you look at Pro Football Focus's list of the top 5 tackling corners in 2011-- Kelly Jennings, Alan Ball, Brice McCain, our old friend Dimitri Patterson, and former Eagles camp casualty Kyle Arrington -- you won't see many high salaries or Pro Bowl appearances. Yeah, Darrelle Revis is a fine tackler and a shutdown pass defender, but there really aren't many of those. Worrying about a corner's tackling is kind of like judging Ryan Howard on his strikeouts. Yes, it would be great if he didn't whiff so much. No, striking out a lot doesn't mean he's a terrible player.
Also, Asante is on the trading block not because of tackling or poor performance in general, but because his cap number this year is more than $10 million, he's 31 years old, and most important, the Eagles are committed to playing pressure defense behind a wide-nine front. When you're around the league lead in sacks, it makes sense to play press coverage, which is best suited for Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. Asante, who uses his knowledge of QBs and routes to sit back and then swoop in, is a bad fit, not a bad player.
Big-time, big money corners have big egos. Asante has chafed, more or less openly, ever since the team went out and got Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie last August. He knows he would have been dealt then if the Eagles could have gotten value. Now he wakes up every day wondering if he's going to get a phone call welcoming him to the Browns or the Rams or whomever. He apparently has agreed to redo his contract if it will get a trade done.
Yesterday, in addition to posting links to the bloggingthebeast post, Asante implored reporters to "stop the negative pub." He also theorized that "maybe I need to talk crazy every time they say something crazy about me."
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that won't be real helpful, though it might be entertaining.
Also, Asante challenged us to publicize his Bringinghomesinglemoms foundation, which certainly is a worthy cause, as I noted when I trekked down to Gray's Ferry to interview him at a Habitat for Humanity build in February.
As off-the-wall as Asante can be, I'm going to miss him, and there is a decent chance the Eagles will, too. But maybe we can be pen pals!