Fairly or unfairly, if there is one player who represents the underperformance of the 2011 and 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, it is Nnamdi Asomugha.
When the Birds landed the three-time Pro Bowl corner in the free agent spending spree that followed the NFL lockout in the summer of 2011, it seemed that the sky was the limit for the team. In hindsight, it’s hard to fault Vince Young for his “Dream Team” comment, particularly after they landed the most prized free agent of the year in corner Nnamdi Asomugha. In those early moments of a shortened training camp, it seemed that with the talent the Birds had locked up, the sky was the limit for the squad.
Or not. Asomugha, along with his team, struggled in 2011. Maybe he needed time to acclimate to a new system. Perhaps he wasn’t being utilized properly. Maybe things would get better when Philadelphia offloaded Asante Samuel.
After embracing Jeffrey Lurie’s notion that 8-8 wasn’t good enough, this offseason again generated new hope. Players like Asomugha were confident. They had a season of Juan Castillo’s system under their belts. Unlike the previous offseason, there was time to work with their teammates in OTAs and minicamps and truly gel as a team. For real this time—THIS was going to be the year.
Until, once again, it wasn’t. In the middle of a season that is unbearably miserably, Asomugha still has failed to deliver. He has just one interception and has fallen so far in the eyes of his opponents that he’s not even seen as a threat. Teams now throw towards him and why not? They are having a great success doing so. Opposing quarterbacks have a 110.4 QB rating when throwing in Asomugha’s direction so far this season, according to ProFootballFocus. He has just one interception. This is not working out as anyone planned, including Asomugha.
Asomugha knows that he is being heavily criticized and deserves it. He opened up to reporters on Friday to discuss that reality.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been as good as I wanted it to be. As far as team and individually, my expectations were so high, and then things just kind of just hit really quickly and it was like team-wise and player-wise, it was kind of like playing catch-up, trying to get it back on the right foot.
“So that part of it has been difficult. But I still keep that faith and believe that at some point the thing will turn, because the mindset is keep working hard, keep pushing and at some point, it’s going to turn. And that’s just what I believe.”
For Eagles players and coaches to continue to get on the field each and every week they have to believe that things will change. That they will improve. Otherwise, who would suit up to be humiliated by bad teams every week? Asomugha believes that things will turn around, but when will that be, exactly? And why has he struggled so much in in his career as a Philadelphia Eagle?
At least Asomugha knows how poorly an attempt at an explanation will be perceived these days. We are far beyond the point of needing words. All we will believe is improved play on the field.
“I think there’s a lot of things that go into it, but I think to say anything about that now would kind of be like making an excuse.”
“So my mind is focused on turning it around instead of why hasn’t it or what has been the issue. I don’t want to get into that and make it seem like there’s an excuse. You know?”
What Asomugha knows is the frustration of being a fan and seeing a player you expect to come up big fail to do so week after week. So, unlike some of his teammates, he’s not going to lash out at the Eagles fanbase. He understands where they’re coming from.
“As a fan I can look back to teams that I like and a player that I’ve liked comes in and expecting it to just change, and it not working out and being upset about that,” he said. “I can’t now be that guy and look at them and say, ‘You can’t be upset that we haven’t won and I haven’t been Superman on the field’ even though that’s what has been expected of me.”
The Eagles will face many big questions at the end of the season, one of which will be whether or not to hang on to Nnamdi. He is set to earn $15 million in 2013 if he stays in Philly, $4 million of that guaranteed. And this is where he wants to be.
“I absolutely believe in the decision I have made and believe in this team.”
There are six more games in the season for us to see Asomugha make that turn he referred to. He is certainly not the only player on the team, or even the defense, who needs to improve dramatically so that this team has a of chance to win games. Will he be back next year? We’ll see. For now, let’s see whether Asomugha can help to neutralize the potent combination of Cam Newton throwing to Steve Smith against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night.
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