Asante Samuel is a perennial Pro Bowler. Dimitri Patterson, before this season, was nothing more than a journeyman special teamer. But after three impressive games as the starting right cornerback, Patterson is making a name for himself, so much so, in fact, that Brian Baldinger of NFL Network is making the case that Patterson and Samuel currently comprise the best pair of cornerbacks in the league.
"I think between Dimitri Patterson and Asante (Samuel) on the other side, it's the best tandem of corners in the league right now," Baldinger said on an edition of "Playbook." "Between the two of them, they've got ten interceptions."
Baldinger is making his claim after studying loads of game tape. But the numbers support cause as well. According toFootball Outsiders, the Eagles have the best Defense-adjusted Value Over Average against opposing No. 1 wide receivers (-27.7 percent), yielding 70.4 yards per game on 9.8 passes per game. On the other side, they have the second-best DVOA against opposing No. 2 wide receivers (-43.3 percent), allowing 28.8 yards per game on 5.8 passes per game.
Further, Samuel's seven picks lead the league – this after he tied for the most interceptions last season with nine. Over the last five seasons, Samuel paces all NFLers with 36 interceptions. And while a case can be made that Samuel is playing at an all-time high, given his newfound physicality, it's Patterson that has been the revelation.
Inserted into the starting lineup after the bye week to replace an ailing Ellis Hobbs, Patterson held Reggie Wayne to 7.5 yards per reception in his first game. In his second game, he intercepted Donovan McNabb twice, returning of them to the house. Last Sunday, Patterson helped hold Hakeem Nicks to his third-lowest yards-per-catch total (10.8) of the season.
"They've upgraded the right cornerback position," Baldinger said. "That Dimitri Patterson, he's confident. When he gets beat, he comes right back. He's got a short memory. And between the two of them, contrasting styles, it's really made this defense a lot better."
Baldinger also makes the case that the lockdown ability of the two cornerbacks has helped the run game as well.
"Asante likes to play off, Dimitri likes to play up," Baldinger said. "Because of their skills, it frees up guys like Quintin Mikell to get nosy in the run game. One of the reasons they shut down Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs Sunday night is that those safeties got very, very nosy."
This Sunday, Samuel and Patterson could be in line for another big day. Bears quarterbacks have thrown 15 interceptions this season, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. For this new dynamic duo, it will be another opportunity to make a case for superiority in the secondary.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 11:08 a.m., November 24