During his days with the Oakland Raiders, Nnamdi Asomugha exemplified what it meant to have very few stats. In 2008, Asomugha only had one interception over the course of 15 games. That trend of single-interception seasons played through the course of 2007-2009.
It was also during that time that Asomugha was regarded as one of the best defensive backs in the NFL alongside the newly-risen Darrelle Revis. It was very simple — Asomugha had very few interceptions because no opposing quarterback would dare throw in his direction.
It was largely due to Asomugha’s stellar cornerback play that the Raiders’ defense was often praised as the league’s most improved in 2010, a season where Asomugha had zero interceptions during the span of 14 games.
Enter the Philadelphia Eagles, Asomugha signed a mammoth contract worth $60 Million with the NFC East team before the 2011 season. However, Asomugha’s play suffered during his tenure with Philadelphia.
New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz experienced a breakout performance against Asomugha in one of his early contests with the Eagles. Moreover, the cornerback’s play in Philly was laden with business decisions and poor coverage.
Recently, Asomugha, released by the Eagles, signed with the San Francisco 49ers. The contract, a one-year affair, shows how far the player has plummeted from his prime with the Raiders.
However, if there is one team that can help Asomugha regain his previous ability, it is the Niners. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has a remarkable ability for fixing players that are regarded as “broken”. Carlos Rogers, once a top-10 pick for the Washington Redskins, did not enjoy a Pro-Bowl caliber season until falling under Harbaugh’s tutelage.
Moreover, a large reason why Alex Smith was such a desirable trade option in the 2013 offseason was due to Harbaugh’s ability to improve the play of the once-troubled quarterback. It was only a few years ago that Smith was regarded as the weakest link among NFL quarterbacks, and Niner fans across the nation were hoping that Harbaugh would begin his new regime by decisively releasing the former No. 1-overall pick.
However, under Harbaugh’s assistance, Smith took his game to levels that many analysts did not think possible. Smith, before suffering a job-losing injury in 2012, was passing for 70 percent completion and boasted the league’s third best quarterback rating.
Going into 2013, Asomugha can benefit from Harbaugh in a similar manner that Smith and Rogers did. Asomugha, who will also be playing behind front seven that includes: Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks, has the opportunity to regain his lost status as an elite cornerback.
Harbaugh has the ability to maximize a players’ strengths while diminishing their weaknesses. Time will tell if Asomugha is yet another player who the coach will successfully return to glory.