Is Nnamdi Asomugha the standout cornerback he was in eight seasons with the Raiders?
Or is he the disappointment he was in two seasons as a high-priced free-agent pickup by the Philadelphia Eagles?
For both Asomugha and the 49ers – who signed the veteran corner this offseason – the verdict is still waiting to be delivered.
But through several weeks with the Niners, including organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp in June, all indications are that Asomugha will be a better player in San Francisco than he was in Philadelphia.
Asomugha, who’s spent time at both cornerback positions with the 49ers since signing, will be an extra part in an already-established and effective defense. He’s not being asked to be the shutdown guy, game after game and play after play. He’s joining a scheme and playing his role. Because of that, he told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group recently that, “This defense fits me pretty well.”
He’ll be rotated into the mix with starting corners Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown and add some experience and leadership to a secondary that also includes safeties Donte Whitner, Craig Dahl and No. 1 pick Eric Reid. The scheme, says Asomugha, has been easy to pick up and it’s been complementary to his own skill set.
“There are some calls I like, and the fact the entire defense is on the same page and have been on the team for a while, it makes it easier to pick up,” he told Inman.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, too, says that so far, Asomugha has adapted well to his new team and teammates. But the real test won’t come until live action against other teams during the exhibition season. And he’s not handing Asomugha a job. The veteran will have to earn it.
“I do think he’s a good fit as a guy and a person,” Fangio told reporters recently. “He’s been a tremendous guy here. He’s learning. He’s been a real pro. Remains to be seen how well he can cover. Guys got to be able to cover at the corner position. But, I do think our style of play does potentially fit his style where he’s at in his career right now.
“So, hopefully he can make a strong contribution to us. But, that’s yet to be determined.”
Asomugha, 31, is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the 49ers, who gave him a one-year deal that will allow him to rebuild his NFL career. He signed for $1.35 million, and could make up to $1.65 million with bonuses. That’s a big contrast from the $15 million he would have earned with the Eagles this coming season, part of a five-year deal that he signed with Philadelphia in 2011. The Eagles, however, cut their losses after two seasons in which Asomugha hardly looked like the All-Pro corner he had been in Oakland.
Now, Asomugha is excited to be given another chance to prove what he can do, while also being part of a franchise that’s coming off back-to-back excellent seasons.
“I don’t know a season I’ve ever gone in that I didn’t feel I had something to prove,” Asomugha told reporters after signing with the 49ers. “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder every year that I’ve played. I think it’s different this year because of the adversity I went through in Philadelphia. … Now, being able to be here, start fresh with them, it’s a great opportunity.”