When the news came across that both OJ Atogwe and Bob Sanders were released from their respective teams, the football world was a bit surprised. Not so much to see that two very capable players had been dumped, but to see that they were available to every other team. The Eagles are a team that could use some help at the safety postion, as Quinten Mikell and Nate Allen were nothing more than satisfactory last season. Either Atogwe and Sanders could help fill a void in the Eagles secondary, and solidify the Eagles defense.
The problem with the Eagles safeties last season was that there was way too many yards given up over the middle of the field, and there was a consistent problem of covering tight ends. This fell mainly on Mikell who was penciled in as the strong safety, and finished with a very mediocre performance. On the other end, Allen had an impressive rookie debut, but went down late in the season with a torn ACL. Leaving the free safety spot to another rookie, Kurt Coleman.
One of the reasons there is so much interest in Sanders and Atogwe, is because Mikell was in his contract year last season and the Eagles still have yet to resign him. Too put even more pressure on Mikell and the Eagles organization, Mikell is coming off a very poor season, and there are questions about his reliability as a starting safety. There is no doubt that Allen will be the starting free safety next season, but no one knows whether Mikell will be in Philadelphia. With the possibility of Mikell leaving this opens the door for one of the two safeties currently in free agency.
Sanders is the safety who comes to mind as a quick and easy replacement to Mikell. However, it is well known that Sanders is incredibly injury prone, as he has not finished a season without injury in a number of years. The seven year veteran has had enormous difficulty in Indianapolis getting back on his feet and developing back into the same player he once was, and can’t seem to escape the injury bug.
Although, Sanders is great in coverage and could provide a much needed boost to the Eagles secondary. With the stuggles the Eagles have had covering tight ends, Sanders could significantly improve Philadelphia’s passing defense. With Sanders playing solid coverage in the secondary, it could give Allen, who is already developing into a great coverage safety, even more of an opportunity to show case his talents and rack up more interceptions.
On the other end is Atogwe, who is another very talented coverage safety who could help the Eagles tremendously. The benefit to Atogwe over Sanders is that he has been playing consistently for the past five seasons, and was a big part of the Rams defense. But the most valuable asset that Atogwe brings to the table is his ability to close out receivers. He is simply lock down and has only allowed three touchdowns in the past three seasons, shutting out whatever receiver he is matched up against.
Not only can Atogwe improve the Eagle passing defense, but he is also a tackling machine that can make plays in the running game. He is not afraid to pull up and make big hits on the running back, which is something the Eagles defense was lacking. With another man playing up in the box, that can also drop back into coverage, it should substantially improve the Eagles rushing defense in the long run.
Both of these players have enormous potential, as Sanders won Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, and Atogwe is still in the prime of his career. Luckily, either one of these guys would work in the Eagles defense, and it’s going to come down to who is more valuable. The truth is- Atogwe is the better player. Although he has never won DPoY, he is the more talented and less injury prone choice. If there was no chance of Sanders being injured at some point in his career, I would say that he would be worth the risk. But the Eagles can’t afford to have another injured safety in the backfield.
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