- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Saw this story in this morning's Philadelphia Inqurier on Nnamdi Asomugha working the slot corner position Thursday in Philadelphia Eagles practice, and I'm sure my first thought was probably the same as yours: Didn't they trade Asante Samuel so they could play Asomugha on the outside? Here's what Jeff McLane (and Asomugha) had to say about the situation Thursday, and then we'll talk this over:
For one, it established Curtis Marsh as the third outside cornerback entering camp. But more important, it signaled that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo intends to use Asomugha much as he did last year -- as a roving defender.
"I think a lot of the time I'll be outside," Asomugha said Thursday. "But there are times we can have another guy outside and try to take advantage of other things on the inside. I think Juan is totally comfortable doing that, fine doing that. It's gotten better through the offseason."
I'm not reading a whole lot into this one just yet. If I had to guess (which I do, until I get down there Wednesday and start asking people), I'd guess it's at least as much about getting Marsh reps on the outside as it is getting Asomugha reps inside. Marsh looks like the first option on the outside if Asomugha or fellow starter Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were to get hurt, and I'm sure they'd like to know what they have there in case that were to happen.
But I also think it's important to remember something about the motivation behind the Samuel trade. First, they did it because they were loaded at cornerback, Samuel makes a ton of money and they had/have a lot of their own young players they wanted to sign to long-term deals. But scheme-wise, I don't think they traded Samuel so they could play Asomugha on the outside. I think they traded him so they could play less of the zone coverage at which Asomugha bristled during his first season in Philadelphia. The thinking is that Samuel's deficiencies as a press-man cornerback forced the Eagles to play more zone to cover it up, and that got Asomugha out of his comfort zone. Even if he's in the slot, I expect you'll see Asomugha play more man coverage this season. And I think that's the scheme priority in the secondary.