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NFL Philadelphia Eagles

The 10 Most Important Players on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, #4: Nnamdi Asomugha

Heading into the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to be one of the top teams in the NFL.

Forget about the embarrassment of the 2011 season. This team can’t possibly be as bad again.

Each player had a full off-season to work with his position coach. There were no holdouts. Multiple stars received offseason contract extensions. There are no free agent acquisitions looking for a one-year stint to improve their career. Even the incompetent defensive coordinator has had an offseason–his first, actually–to learn the x’s and o’s of coaching an NFL defense.

The biggest positive for the Eagles might be the incredible amount of depth. On paper, this will be a 53-man roster that ranks as good as any team in the league.

The purpose of this upcoming series is to rank the 10 most important players to the 2012 Eagles. These players were chosen for a number of reasons. Obviously they are all talented starters. But it’s also worth looking at the backups. If this player goes down for the year in week three, who will step up and perform?

As all of my lists go, this one will begin at the bottom and work its way to the top. Click here to see my number 10 player and my number nine player and number eight player and number seven player and number six player and number five player.

4. Nnamdi Asomugha
Following a disastrous 2010 season in which the Eagles allowed 31 passing touchdowns on defense, a single-season franchise record, they knew that improving their secondary play, particularly right cornerback, was a top priority heading into the offseason.

The draft came and went and the Eagles didn’t select a cornerback, so most figured that they would trade backup quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Well, they did. But they also went above and beyond.

The Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha, the biggest free agent acquisition in franchise history.

The only problem? They had Juan Castillo at defensive coordinator, a man who had never coached defense before. It showed.

Castillo was like a little kid in training camp, running around, high-fiving all the players, and excitedly talking about how he wanted to use Asomugha in the same way that the Green Bay Packers used Charles Woodson. Woodson lined up as a cornerback, safety, linebacker, and nickel back during the 2010 season, and he was a major reason why the Packers won the Super Bowl–beating the Eagles twice.

Asomugha, however, is not Woodson. He’s not as physical and his style of play is a bump and run cover corner. He keeps the receiver near the sideline.

He knows what he’s doing too. Check out his four All-Pro selections with the Oakland Raiders, and a reputation that grew to be so great that opponents literally stopped throwing at him.

None of that happened in Philadelphia in 2011. For a while, Eagles fans blamed Asomugha, but now that we look back on the season, we realize that it was the incompetent defensive coordinator, and not the star corner, who is mostly responsible for the disappointing year.

The 2012 season should be different. It will be different.

Castillo won’t try to get as cute with Asomugha. He’s still going to play him at some slot corner, but that will come in handy when the Eagles face teams like the Giants, with Victor Cruz. But I expect Asomugha to mostly play on the outside.

The Eagles also have Todd Bowles as their defensive backs coach, and Asomugha, as well as the rest of the secondary, couldn’t stop raving about him in training camp. He’s an exceptional coach, and last year’s secondary coach, Johnnie Lynn, failed to impress and was the only coach to be relieved of his duties after the disappointing 8-8 debacle.

Asomugha is also extremely motivated heading into 2012, more so than last year. He’s 31 and he’s not going to play forever. He’s also played for nine seasons, and his teams, combined, have won just 65 games. Never has he played for a team with a winning record, and in every season except for last year, his play, whether terrific or terrible, would not have impacted his team’s win-loss record very much.

If the Eagles are going to shut down the other NFC East wide receivers (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks, and especially Victor Cruz), they’re going to need Asomugha to be the star he was signed to be. If the Eagles are going to compete for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, they’re going to need Asomugha to be an impact player.

Last year is a lost year, for Asomugha, Castillo, and the rest of the team. But in 2012, it’s time to fly.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.