FOXBORO When it comes to playing in the NFL, there's a certain amount of thought that has to go into being great.
But too much thinking is not a good thing, something Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha knows all too well.
The Pro Bowl cornerback, in his first season with the Eagles, has not had nearly as big an impact as many expected. It has little to do with talent and everything to do with you got it, thinking too much.
A lot of that has to do with the Eagles, who signed him to a five-year, 60 million contract in the offseason, heaping a hefty load of responsibilities on his shoulders - far more responsibilities than he had in Oakland.
"We've asked him to do a ton," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
And the added weight of those responsibilities, has played a role in him not being the immediate difference-maker they were banking on this season.
"In Oakland, it was just, you line up on that guy and you take him out of the game," Asomugha said. "So that's where your study was; that's where all your focus was.
In Philadelphia, their defensive schemes are much more involved.
"Now, there are different matchup issues all over the field," Asomugha said.
It didn't help matters that the NFL lockout wiped out most of the usual preseason training sessions, which put Asomugha even further behind the learning curve. While his primary position is cornerback, Asomugha said it's not unusual for certain schemes to have him lineup at nickel-back, dime, free safety, strong safety and even linebacker.
"That's been the biggest challenge," he said. "Just figuring out what my responsibility is based off the position that I'm playing. But I've gotten better as the season has gone."
For the season, he has 24 tackles and three interceptions.
Asomugha added, "being a football player, you got instincts that you can just go off of, regardless of what position you're in based off the coverages and the different things that we're doing. That was the early challenge, being able to understand how you fit based off that particular scheme or that particular coverage."
Even though the Eagles and Asomugha know he's at his best when he's in straight man-to-man coverage, it might have made more sense for the Eagles to tweak what they do defensively in order for Asomugha to be in position to do what he does best.
"You have to see how the rest of the defense works," Asomugha said. 'I could easily do that. I could easily just be told, 'take this guy.' But then everybody else has to fit in to that as well. So it won't necessarily happen that way. It's kind of like, you can't just do it for one guy. You have to make sure the whole defense can adapt if that's your plan. It's not something we've gone to. There are guys that are used to doing what they've done for years. So you're not necessarily going to get into that kind of moving around, type of thing."
While Asomugha's play hasn't been terrible, the fact that the Eagles (4-6) have struggled and he was one of their biggest offseason pick-ups, has cast a much brighter spotlight on him not being as dominant a player as he was with the Raiders.
"He's done some good things," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "We've asked him to do a ton. He's a guy that loves to play the game. He wants to be the best; and again, we're asking him to do more than he's done in the past. I think he's handled it well."
But he'll be the first to tell you that he can get better.
The same goes for the Eagles, who have lost five of their six games this season by a touchdown or less. Experiencing that good, but not-good-enough-to-win feeling is equally frustrating and disappointing for Asomugha.
"It just depends, disappointment might come first; frustration might come first," he said. "It depends on how the game went that particular day. But frustration and disappointment are exactly how you would view it.
He added, "It's also encouraging, besides the frustration and disappointment. We know we're a good team that needs to finish out what we start. That's what makes teams great, being able to finish what they start."
A strong finish to the regular season and a good showing in the playoffs are about the only ways this season can end as a successful one for an Eagles team that has lots of talent on its roster - even if the record might suggest otherwise.
"When you bring a team together, you have to build them up, the chemistry and they have to jell before things start to happen," Asomugha said. "You think you can play with what people would call an all-star team or something like that and you're supposed to win every game. But everybody has to be on the same page. You see teams over the years win many games and Super Bowls without the most talented players."
But that won't happen with this Eagles team. For them to win, they'll do it the way most teams do - because of their talent.
Asomugha has seen that talent in bits and bursts all season.
"It's happened in several games this year, but just hasn't happened for the entire game," he said. "We have to make it happen every game."