Around the NFL, when the Eagles offense and Michael Vick are discussed, the phrase that often pops up is “pick your poison.” Stop his scrambling; he’ll pass. Stop his passing; he’ll scramble. Now “pick your poison” may also apply to the Eagles cornerback tandem of Asante Samuel and Dimitri Patterson.
Samuel, a three-time Pro Bowler, has five interceptions this season – one off the league leader DeAngelo Hall. While Dimitri Patterson has only started twice in his career, the last two games, he’s got two interceptions this season. The fifth year veteran has been thrown at a lot the last two weeks since he’s unproven and Samuel is a known ball-hawk.
“I would say that’s been true this year more than I’ve seen in the couple years since Asante’s been here,” said Sean McDermott, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. “Teams are throwing more to our defensive right than to our left, and I can see why.”
Patterson has no problem with that and pointed out after picking off Donovan McNabb twice on Monday night that he relishes the opportunity to grab a few more interceptions and improve his statistics.
“That’s a blessing because I’m not just out there just to be standing out there,” Patterson said. “They’ve got 11 guys on the field, they’ve got to throw the ball, I’m not going to be saying ‘Please don’t go over there.’”
Samuel said that even if Patterson continues to play at a high level it may take a while for opponents to throw back to Samuel’s side. During his second year in the league, Samuel was the nickel corner in New England until Tyrone Poole was injured. Samuel took over and played across from Ty Law, who at the time was a four-time Pro Bowler.
“Every meeting coach always told me, ‘They’re not coming at Ty Law, they’re going to come at you,’ because you know, he was the pro bowler and I was the young guy,” Samuel said. “I definitely earned my stripes and they came at me for weeks, for years. Took a while to earn it.”
Now, Samuel has more than the respect of his opponents, he has their fear. He’d much rather be thrown at, as the only statistic Samuel follows are his interceptions, but he admits that shutting down one side of the field is advantageous to the team, which also happens to lead the league with 16 interceptions.
“If you have one side of the field that doesn’t get no action, and they just throw it to the other side, then hell yeah,” Samuel said. “I would imagine a team would love to make a team one-sided.”
Still, Samuel hopes that Patterson continues to play well and forces teams to throw back to his side sooner rather than later.
“Well yeah, it definitely helps,” Samuel said. “You make plays on both sides of the ball, where else are you going to go? You’ve got to pick the middle of the field or something.”
Until that happens at least a few more weeks, Samuel is likely to continue to see very few passes thrown his way. While he doesn’t like the lack of excitement, he’s learned to accept it throughout his career.
“It’s just something I had to learn to deal with over the years,” Samuel said. “You know, it gets a little boring over there sometimes when you don’t get no action, but I just keep telling myself, you know, they‘re going to throw it at me sooner or later.”
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