Game changer, swagger, bigger than the game, champion, ball hawk, can all describe #16 on our list. Asante Samuel, although highly criticized, is one of the premier playmaking defensive backs in all of football. In three seasons with the Eagles Samuel has recorded a staggering 20 interceptions. Since 2006 nobody has more interceptions in football than Samuel with 36 INT’s.
At 5’10 185 pounds Samuel is not known for his hitting or his eagerness to tackle. Regardless you cannot deny the impact he has on defense for the Philadelphia Eagles. With an injury riddled and inexperienced secondary the Eagles sorely missed Samuel in the four games he missed in 2010 due to a concussion and a knee injury. In week 11 at Chicago, Bears QB Jay Cutler had a field day throwing for 4 touchdowns without having to worry about keeping an eye out for #22. After Samuel the Eagles are very thin at cornerback and it showed.
A 4th round draft pick in 2003 Samuel spent his first five seasons as a member of the New England Patriots. Samuel is a proven champion with two Super Bowl rings to show for it and has earned Pro Bowl honors in four consecutive seasons from 2007-2010 which is the longest current streak by an NFL CB. He signed 6-year $56 million dollar contract with the Eagles in 2008.
Samuel has been described as a “me-first” guy, who plays soft coverage and is afraid to make a tackle. He is a free-lance, play making corner that always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He is exceptional at making a break to the ball. Instead of covering a receiver he covers any ground he feels like covering. Although a very frustrating player to watch at times Samuel can come up with a game changing play at any moment. He can also be left standing in open field as an opposing player runs through his soft tackle. He did shock me this year with a vicious hit on Derek Hagan vs. the Giants. Although he was later fined for the hit it was still impressive. One thing that Samuel doesn’t lack is swagger. Something that the Eagles D was sorely lacking last year.
Samuel is not going to win any Ed Block Courage awards or play man-to-man for the betterment of the team. This is the top 20 list of the Best Athletes in Philly and character sadly has little to do with the performance he turns out on the field. The truth remains that Samuel makes the Eagles a better defense and proves it year in and year out that he is one of the best play making cornerbacks in all of football.
Since joining the league in 2003 Samuel is second in the NFL with 42 INT’s and first in INT’s for a TD. The Eagles are 15-3 with Samuel in the lineup and 11-0 at home. He is only the 3rd Eagle ever to post back-to-back 7 interception seasons. Samuel also leads the NFL since 2003 with 8 INT’s in the 4th quarter of close games, winning or losing by less than 7 points. The numbers don’t lie, and whether or not Samuel is trying to help the Eagles win or fill up his trophy case, he is doing something right.
With one of the only bright spots in the Eagles pass defense last year being Asante Samuel, it is safe to say that he a vital part to the Birds continued success. Love him or hate him he gives them a game changer on defense. Now only if we could find a few more of them! That is why Asante Samuel deserves to be #16 on our Best Athlete in Philly countdown.