Atlanta Falcons Player to Watch: Asante Samuel

Last year the Atlanta Falcons shocked draft viewers and fans alike when they made a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns to move up and get Julio Jones, a playmaking wide receiver from Alabama. This year they used traded for another playmaker, but the price tag was much smaller. That’s why my player to watch for the Atlanta Falcons is Asante Samuel.

Asante Samuel is a smart and savvy cornerback that is known for his elite ball skills and his ability to make splash plays. Over his nine year career Samuel has picked off 45 passes and returned 5 for touchdowns, that comes out to an average of 6 picks a year.  In the pass-happy NFC South, Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, and Drew Brews average 35.9 passes per game, and with that many attempts it isn’t inconceivable that Samuel could top his average interceptions 2012.

Using his deceptive speed and elite route recognition, the Falcons would be wise to make he and former free agent gem Dunta Robinson as the starting corners. This option would leave Brent Grimes as a slot corner, which is where I believe he could thrive. With that new lineup in place, it should allow the Falcons to disrupt inside receiving threats like Jimmy Graham (Saints), Dallas Clark (Buccaneers), and Greg Olsen (Panthers). That alone makes the Samuel trade an upgrade at three positions.

With an upgraded defensive backfield, the offense should be able to get Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, and Jacquizz Rodgers more touches. That stable could draw a lot of comparisons to the 2008 Super Bowl Champion Giants’ running back group. You have the strong bruiser back that can get the tough yards up the middle and then surprise you by cutting to the outside and gashing you with the big run. Behind him you have two homerun threat backs that your defense can’t fall asleep on passing downs. Either way opposing defenses will have a tough time figuring out what personnel they want on the field, and that creates opportunities for offenses to exploit mistakes.  The extra touches caused by Samuel through turnovers or by blanketing his man, could also find their way to quarterback Matt Ryan and his wide receivers. Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas all have the ability to beat single coverage if given the chance.

Enough about how Samuel changes the offense lets focus on his side of the ball, defense. With a shutdown cover corner (Samuel), a thumping run supporter (Robinson), and one of the most underrated corners in the league (Grimes) man coverage should be the call on most plays. Man-to-man coverage would allow the Falcons to bring more blitzes to keep opposing QBs out of rhythm. It will also give the Falcons’ plethora of pass-rushers like John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kory Biermann, and Jonathan Babineaux more time to get to the QB.

When its all said and done, the Atlanta Falcons added a premier corner who still has 2-4 very good years left in the tank. Not only that, but they got him for next to nothing as far as the trade was concerned, even though his cap number is a bit too high for my liking. For a team in a make or break year (they have been one-and-done in the playoffs two years in a row now) his veteran experience and skill set may be just the missing piece that push the Falcons into that top-8 team tier that the New Orleans Saints will likely be vacating.

About Will Lomas

Grew up in a town in Tennessee named Dyersburg, and played ball there. When I realized I was too small to play college ball, I found my passion in breaking down game film, analyzing athletes, and finding the little things that decides whether a player is good, bad, or great.

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