The New England Patriots have had plenty of success with their fourth-round draft picks during Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach and de facto general manager — from Jarvis Green (2002) and Stephen Gostkowski (2006) to James White (2014), Trey Flowers (2015) and Shaq Mason (2015). They also used their fourth-rounder in 2007 to acquire Randy Moss via trade. Needless to say that the round has been good to the Patriots in the past.
One more reason why that is the case is Asante Samuel: New England picked him 120th overall in 2003, and he went on to become one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks in his five years in New England. And apparently, as he pointed out in a social media post this week, he also made Belichick “understand the cornerback position better” even though the Patriots’ head coach “never agreed with the way” the Central Florida product played the position:
Fun Fact: I made Belichick understand the cornerback position better and how to make plays in any coverage. He never agreed with the way I played but now he teaches it. #pick6 #hof— Asante Samuel (@pick_six22) June 23, 2020
What exactly Samuel is referring to in his post is anyone’s guess — he didn’t add any specifics how exactly he apparently impacted Belichick’s view of cornerbacks. One way could be his ability to drive on the ball and aggressively by using the so-called T-step technique. The name T-step comes from the shape a defender’s feet are making when he makes his breaks either forward or diagonally.
This highlight reel illustrates Samuel perfectly executing the technique:
Bunch of cut ups of Samuel using the "T" step at the top his pedal to break on the ball. See how his plant foot is at a lateral angle making the shape of a "T" to drive on the ball. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/Tm7xfZKtUy— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) June 23, 2020
The use of the T-step technique allowed Samuel to become one of the most aggressive cornerbacks in the NFL, and it resulted in him registering 27 interceptions — including six that were returned for touchdowns — in 89 combined regular season and playoff games with the Patriots. Belichick and his coaching staff could have used the team’s former playmaker and four-time Pro Bowler as an example for other cornerbacks on how to play the ball.
Just look at Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception in Super Bowl 49, which saw him actively attack the football by also planting his back-foot in a T-step shape. If that is what Samuel is talking about, his impact can indeed still be felt in New England to this day.