During the week, Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel mentioned that he was getting bored during games since no quarterbacks were throwing his way. The three-time Pro Bowler was anything but bored on Sunday Night, grabbing two interceptions and recovering a fumble in the Eagles 27-17 win over the Giants.
Asante Samuel has 42 career interceptions, including 36 over the last five years, the most by any player in any five year stretch in NFL history. Samuel estimated that he has 90 percent of the balls he’s picked off in his possession. Count the two he grabbed tonight among them, as Samuel showed his swagger by carrying both footballs to the podium for a post-game press conference.
“There’s few in the league that can contest what he does on a weekly basis with the ball in the air,” said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. “He plays the game, he’s worked on the physical part of the game this offseason and I think it’s transferred to the playing field this season for us. The guy wants to be the best and you can work with that.”
Samuel is the best in the league at the moment in interceptions, moving past DeAngelo Hall with seven on the year. The 29-year-old credited his hard work in the offseason as the reason for his sure-handed ways on defense.
“I work on this,” Samuel said. “This is all I focus on in the off-season. I have my trainer and I have my guys out there. We do drills and all we focus on is making plays, doing your drills and making sure you go get the ball wherever it’s at.”
It’s not all offseason work that allows Samuel to perform at such a high level. Even during training camp and practices, he’s constantly calling out wide receivers routes before they run them, the result of a high football IQ and a great deal of extra preparation.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” said McDermott. “That goes along with his God-given physical talents. He spends a considerable amount of time studying film and he just knows his craft and he knows it well.”
“I use my technique and I go by what I was coached by since college,” said Samuel, crediting Gene Chizik, his defensive coordinator at Central Florida and now the head coach at Auburn. “It’s technique. He has to run his route. The quarterback has to throw it to him. So, I’m looking at him and the quarterback so I’m timing the quarterback’s throw and I’m timing the route, so it’s a combination of both.”
Samuel’s not the only Eagle with a nose for the ball though. Philadelphia leads the league with 19 interceptions, which is partly due to an aggressive philosophy.
“We put pressure on the quarterback, try to get him off balance and off his rhythm,” said Samuel. “If you stop their running in the beginning, you make them one-dimensional and that’s the most important thing.”
Philadelphia’s secondary also has the freedom to freelance on occasion, according to McDermott.
“They have some flexibility, but there are some parameters and at the end of the day if it works, great and if it doesn’t, I’ve got to pull the reigns a little bit,” McDermott said.
So far this year, it seems to be working, as the Eagles have 19 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries and lead the league with a +15 turnover differential.
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