Figuratively, they say cornerbacks are left alone on an island when in coverage. In Asante Samuel’s case, that is true in more ways than one. If Philadelphia was “Cornerback Island”, Samuel would be like Tom Hanks in Castaway. He’s the only gig in town. As for the rest of the Eagles’ cornerback crew, they might as well be on an island…literally.
I know this is not earth shattering news that the Eagles need a another corner but I thought I’d continue beating the dead horse. I truly hope that they plan on acquiring one because if not, get used to seeing the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Dez Bryant, and Miles Austin torching us in the passing game. Last year our defense gave up 31 passing TD’s, good for 2nd most in the league.
To put things into perspective a little bit, let’s take a look at the past 3 years since Samuel joined the team. From 2008 – 2010, Samuel has accumulated 20 INT’s and 52 passes defensed (PD). 6 other CB’s that have played with him during the same time span and have combined for 17 INT’s and 65 passes defensed (PD). That breaks down to Samuel averaging 6.6 INT’s and 17.3 PD per year and the 6 other CB’s averaging 0.94 INT’s and 3.6 PD per year each. And out of those other 6 CB’s, Sheldon Brown played 2 of those years and had the bulk of those stats so that makes the other 5…well…downright brutal. But alas, let’s look at each cornerback on our current roster and see where they fit in for 2011.
Asante Samuel: He’s entrenched as our only worthwhile starter. I recently referred to him as a rogue playmaker in that he’s a guy who makes big plays but marches to the beat of his own drummer. He’s 30 years old this year so under Eagle philosophy he is beginning the downside of his career. But until proven otherwise, he’s a top CB in this league.
Dimitri Patterson: An undrafted free agent, he signed with the Eagles in 2009 after spending the previous 3 years with Kansas City and Washington. Patterson started out well last year when he began filling in for the injured Ellis Hobbs. He appeared pretty solid in his 1st few games and peaked with a 2 interception (1 returned for a TD) game against the Redskins in week 10. But then the wheels fell off and his bandwagon crashed and burned. He’s best suited as a 4th or 5th CB and someone who can start in a pinch. He’ll most likely make the roster again but he’s certainly not starter material.
Joselio Hanson: Another undrafted free agent, he signed with the Eagles in 2006 after spending the previous 3 seasons with the 49ers and Frankfurt Galaxy of the European League. Before the 2009 season he signed a 5 year, $21 Million deal but 2 months into the season he was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. The violation was supposedly for a diuretic and not steroids but oddly enough, his play began declining after that. Hanson is awful on the outside and is merely “ok” in the slot. He will need a strong showing in camp for him to retain his spot on the roster.
Trevard Lindley: He was a 4th round pick last year and played sparingly during the season. He showed a couple of very brief flashes but is still not looked upon as being ready to take the next step. He’ll make the roster as a reserve and see playing time in the dime packages unless injuries force him into the top 3.
Jorrick Calvin: He was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals just before the season started last year. He was a 6th round pick and was mainly brought in to be a return specialist. He didn’t see any time at CB but did return 32 kicks for 692 yards (21.6 YPR) and 12 punts for 125 yards (10.4 YPR). Will that be enough to keep him around? He went on IR in December with a back injury and the Eagles have since signed 2 players with some experience returning kicks (Sinorice Moss and Gerard Lawson). He will probably make the roster again due to his return abilities (only).
Brandon Hughes: He was a 5th round draft choice of the Chargers in 2009 and spent that year on their practice squad. He was signed to the Giants’ practice squad for 2010 but once Ellis Hobbs was put on injured reserve last year the Eagles signed him to their active roster. He saw some playing time in week 17′s meaningless game against Dallas but didn’t stand out. He is somewhat of an unknown but is a longshot to make the roster.
Gerard Lawson: He was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Browns in 2008. He was released by the Browns after a DUI conviction and then spent a few months in the UFL with the Hartford Colonials. Another unknown player but he possesses some experience returning kicks. He returned 2 kickoffs for 48 yards last year but is a longshot to make the roster.
Curtis Marsh: This year’s 3rd round draft choice from Utah State. He’s a lock to make the roster but he’s going to be a little bit of a project player. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, he’s only been playing CB for 2 years as his 1st 2 years of college were spent at RB. I’m not expecting much this year from Marsh. He’ll see some playing time just to get his feet wet but is certainly not a threat to win a starting job. Hopefully in a year or 2 he’ll be ready to step into a starting role.
Isaiah Trufant: Who? Yeah, exactly. He was picked up off of waivers from the Jets this offseason. What? You don’t recall this tasty little nugget of exciting news? His resume includes stints with multiple UFL and AFL teams before signing with the Jets last year. He was actually voted the UFL’s defensive player of the year in 2010. Trufant is listed anywhere from 5′ 7″ and 160 lbs to 5′ 8″ and 170 lbs. He’s probably closer to the former. He’d be like Mini Me out there trying to cover WR’s. Chances of making the roster? Put it this way, if he does, our problems are worse than we think!
So, other than Samuel, any name jump out at you there? Who should be the starter opposite Asante? Unfortunately there’s currently not an overwhelming option on the roster right now which is I why I fully believe we need to add a CB either via free agency or trade. I will admit one thing though, with this crew of corners we did win the division and almost beat the eventual Super Bowl Champs in the playoffs. The scary thing is that Reid and Co. may look at that and say “we’re fine there” just like he used to say about the WR position before we finally added some talent.
For now though, we can only look at who’s on the roster. The Eagles usually keep 9 total defensive backs on their 53-man roster. Last year it was 6 CB’s and 3 safeties initially but in year’s past it was a 5 and 4 breakdown. For the sake of argument we’ll say they’ll keep 6 again this year. Out of the above 9 players, the only true locks should be Samuel and Marsh. But since we have to pick 6, it would be Samuel, Marsh, Lindley, Patterson, Hanson, and Calvin. If we bring in another CB or we only keep 5, I think Hanson will be the odd man out.