The nature of offense is changing in the NFL. Much like the college game, NFL offenses are getting faster and taking advantage of spacing to stress defenses. That, in turn, is forcing changes in defenses to counter wide-open offenses.
We’ve seen changes at every position on the defense, and the work load for linebackers has increased tremendously. Linebackers need to cover wide swaths of field in pass defense, fill gaps or pursue on the back-side in the run game, and pressure passes as blitzers.
Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah has the athletic profile and skill set to be an impact player in a modern defense. He’s athletic, rangy, physical, and aggressive, with the ability to play the run, cover, and blitz.
All of those traits could make Asamoah an intriguing fit for the New York Giants in Wink Martindale’s aggressive, blitzing defense.
Games Played: 32
Tackles For a loss: 12.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 5
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 3.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Best: Athleticism, competitive toughness, coverage, blitzing
Worst: Instincts, mental processing
Projection: A nickel linebacker with starting upside at WILL in an aggressive blitzing defense.
(Asamoah is LB number 24)
Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah II is a frenetic, high-energy linebacker with great athleticism for the position at the NFL level.
Asamoah shows great agility, quickness, and long speed, giving him tremendous range at the second level. He is able to cover broad swaths of the field in zone coverage or stay with most offensive players in man coverage. Asamoah has a crisp backpedal in coverage and shows surprisingly fluid hips and quick feet for a linebacker.
He also has experience, and upside, as a blitzing linebacker. His explosive burst allows him to attack gaps and pressure passers even when he doesn’t get hits on the quarterback. His explosiveness downhill makes him enough of a threat that offenses need to respect the even the possibility of his blitzes, making schemes that have him show blitz before dropping into coverage effective as well.
He fires downhill as a run defender and is able to beat blockers to landmarks – and also flashes some violence taking on blockers, even stacking and shedding linemen. He’s also a disciplined defender and doesn’t seem to freelance. He is quick to fill his gap as a run defender, often forcing ball carriers to waiting teammates in cut-back lanes.
Most of the negatives in Asamoah’s game can be traced back to the hesitation he shows at the start of each play. He does not appear to be an instinctive linebacker at this point and needs a beat, or three, to see the play develop before committing.
While Asamoah has plenty of athleticism to recover and make up for lost time at the collegiate level, the pace of the pro game could make that weakness much more pronounced. He does trust his eyes, but that can also get him in trouble as he can fall for misdirection and be drawn far out of position.
That said, he could become a dynamic playmaking linebacker in the NFL if he’s able to improve his processing speed and become a more instinctive player. For now, however, he needs to be put in situations without complicated reads so he can play fast.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Brian Asamoah II will likely start his career as a nickel linebacker, and he will be at his best as a WILL linebacker in an aggressive, blitzing defense.
How far he ascends up the depth chart will likely depend on how much he is able to improve the mental aspect of his game. As things stand now, his defensive coordinator will likely need to use him in situations that simplify his reads as much as possible. Asamoah is a terror when he’s able to play fast – he can blow up running plays in the backfield or smother offensive players in coverage.
However, he can be fooled by misdirection or play fakes, and his play speed slows considerably when he’s forced to work through “eye candy” or make complicated reads. In those situations he clearly needs time to let the play develop before triggering toward the ball carrier.
Asamoah’s athleticism is on display at all times, and he is nothing less than a whirlwind on the field when he’s in motion. He has significant upside as a blitzer and could be a great off-ball linebacker with some work. Even early in his career, Asamoah could be useful as a spy for athletic quarterbacks or a “Green Dog” blitzer to take advantage of his burst downhill or ability to play in space.
There’s a lot to like about Asamoah’s game, and he’s frequently fun to watch. Whether or not he’s able to unlock his full potential will likely depend on the situation in which he lands.