As the debate rages on as to whether or not the Patriots dynasty is coming to an end, we're quickly beginning to realize that the loss of defensive back Asante Samuel has put a substantial dent in the team's pass defense. Currently, the Patriots are near the bottom of the NFL in terms of opponents' completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and passing touchdowns allowed, due in large part to guys like Deltha O'Neal getting abused on national TV.
Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal writes today about how the Patriots are currently paying the price for letting Samuel get away.
The Eagles signed Samuel to a six-year, free-agent contract worth more than $55 million, of which $20 million is guaranteed. Guaranteed, Patriots owner Robert Kraft would think that's a bargain now, if only the Pats could have retained Samuel and still remained under the cap. There's no question that the Pats miss him. Not as much as they miss injured quarterback Tom Brady, mind you. But quite a bit -- as was obvious Sunday night in San Diego, when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers repeatedly burned New England's overmatched secondary with deep passes.
At one point on Sunday night, NBC flashed a graphic on the screen showing how the Chargers had thrown three passes at O'Neal's side of the field, and completed all three for well over 100 yards and a touchdown. Naturally, they kept going back to the well until it dried up ... and it never did.
That should probably be expected when you replace a pro bowl player in Samuel -- not to mention a solid depth guy in Randall Gay -- with a guy like O'Neal, who was cut by the Bengals.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Samuel has already picked off two passes and is currently tied for third in the NFL with nine pass defenses.
Obviously, re-signing Samuel would have been easier said than done with the salary cap. Whatever the reason for his exit, the Patriots defense is far weaker without him, and they certainly should have been able to find a better replacement than Deltha O'Neal.