BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- I was listening last month to the New York Giants' David Tyree dissect his Super Bowl catch (again) when he started talking about the defensive back covering him and how much respect he had for the guy.
I'm not talking about Rodney Harrison; I'm talking about Asante Samuel.
|David Tyree manages to beat Asante Samuel at the Super Bowl. (Getty Images)|
What Samuel is doing right now is resting, doctor's orders after he suffered a mild hamstring strain at Saturday morning's practice. He is not expected to miss a lot of time, which is good for Philadelphia because the Eagles absolutely, positively need him if they're going to be a factor in the NFC East.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Philadelphia had 11 interceptions last year, tied for last in the league; Samuel had six by himself and 10 the season before.
The Eagles didn't score a defensive touchdown, either. Samuel already has six returns for scores in his career.
So here's my question: What is Samuel doing that the rest of his new teammates are not? You know what I mean. What makes one guy so much better than others at forcing turnovers?
"A ballhawk," Samuel answered, "is defined as a guy who plays with technique, good leverage and has knowledge about the game. And he has to have instincts. You have to have it all in one package, and you definitely have to have hands, real good hands.
"As coaches told me growing up, you are not the receiver, so a ball might be anywhere, and you have to adjust to it and be able to make the play."
Whenever I caught Samuel in the past he made the plays. I remember a 2006 game where he intercepted Chicago's Rex Grossman three times. Then there was his performance against the Eagles last November when he picked off A.J. Feeley on the game's third play, returning the ball for a 40-yard touchdown, and intercepted him again late in the fourth quarter -- choking off a potential game-winning drive.
"I could go through each pick if you'd like," said Samuel.
I would like.
"I study film," he said, "but I might take one or two things from a game where I say, OK, this guy is fast and he does this and that, but I usually go by my instincts and what I'm feeling for the game.