- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There was a bit of a stir recently when a Philadelphia writer made a passing reference that suggested Eagles’ coach Andy Reid viewed cornerback Asante Samuel as a player in "steep decline."
The Eagles traded Samuel, 31, to the Atlanta Falcons in the spring. I’ve watched Samuel practice the past two days and he looks just fine to the untrained eye. That’s why I turned to a couple sets of eyes with a pretty good track record at judging players. I asked Atlanta coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff if they see a player who is in steep decline. They both said they’re happy with what they’ve been seeing.
“I’m very excited about adding Asante Samuel to our defense,’’ Smith said. “I’ve said it many times, it’s all about spacing and the game is becoming a game in which you have to match receivers. And you have to be able to play in space. Asante has a very good understanding of the spacing part of the game. One of the things I’ve been most impressed in watching him through the years is, he has a great understanding. Now that we’ve had an opportunity to spend time with him, he’s a very smart football player. He studies the things that defensive backs need to study to get that extra step or get that jump on the ball.’’
“Our personal feeling as an organization is that Asante has one of the best sets of anticipatory skills in this league and we believe that he can still make plays on balls,’’ Dimitroff said. “He’s a feisty, very confident corner. One that can not only make an impact on the field, but also make an impact on our locker room and help our element of confidence and swagger within the secondary. He’s made a nice impact so far being on this team. He’s going to be a nice addition to our secondary and it’s not that we put an amazing amount of pressure on Asante to turn things around here. We expect him to come in, and, again, contribute on the field and also help school some of our younger players.’’
Keep in mind Smith, Dimitroff and the pro personnel people in Atlanta are very thorough in their evaluations. I’m sure they spent a lot of time watching film of Samuel with Philadelphia last season. Yeah, Samuel might be a little older and might not be the same player he was when he had 10 interceptions with the New England Patriots in 2006. But I doubt Smith and Dimitroff would have traded for a guy that has nothing left. They view him as a guy that still has a lot to offer -- on the field and in the locker room.