They say how you act in times of adversity will show your true character. If that really is the case, then this may be the biggest game so far in the young career of Rasul Douglas.
When Ronald Darby went down with a horrible injury in the opening fixture against Washington last year, it paved the way for one rookie cornerback to make his mark in week two. The high-flying Kansas City Chiefs presented a sheer mismatch of speed and electricity on paper, something that had many fans biting their nails over. Yet through all the flames and carnage, Rasul Douglas held his own.
With four tackles to his name, Douglas also broke up a crucial pass on third down to force a Chiefs fourth down. Douglas kept plays ahead of him and more importantly, held his nerve against an Offense that has the ability to turn a dead play into a touchdown. We’ve seen many cornerbacks drown in the deep end once dropped in, but Douglas began the swim to safety onto his own Island, giving the team a level of confidence that may not have been there in the days after Darby’s injury.
From there, he went on to total 11 passes defensed, 2 interceptions and 25 tackles in 14 regular season games. Douglas was not perfect by any means, but the week-to-week progress made was beyond impressive. A huge interception against the Giants where he picked off a pass intended for Brandon Marshall cemented that growth. But when Darby returned and inevitably struggled as he settled back into his groove, Douglas was left watching from a distance, waiting for his name to be called.
One year later and the situation couldn’t be any more different. The secondary has been plagued by injuries and up until this point, Douglas has been left caged up, barking at his owner to let him run free and see off the threats outside. When the Safety depth was tested due to the losses of Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham, the Eagles opted to drop rookie corner Avonte Maddox into the deep end. At the time, this move seemed confusing, but the hard-hitting DB has proved a lot of people wrong. But when Sidney Jones suffered an injury, surely, surely the Eagles had to turn to Rasul Douglas?
Instead, they brought in Dexter McDougle, who spent time with the team last year, playing primarily on special teams during the first half of the season before being cut to make room for emergency linebacker help. In two weeks, McDougle, who was signed off the street, played 106 snaps on defense, proving to be a liability in most. Douglas, a former third-round pick, meanwhile has played in 94 through 8 games.
In 106 snaps, McDougle didn’t really show anything positive. He ran into Jordan Hicks on a pick play, almost gave up a deep touchdown against the Panthers having been completely burned, tripped over on another play and looked lost in London. In his defense, that was to be expected given he was literally signed after not playing a regular season game since November 2017.
So surely after waiving McDougle, now the team would give a start to Douglas.
The Eagles brought in Cre’von LeBlanc, a slot corner who had 2 picks in 2016 for the Chicago Bears but is now playing for his third team in as many months after being waived by the Bears and Lions. Carson Wentz also put a spin move on him which is a fun factoid for you.
But now, Schwartz has no choice but to play Douglas. Jalen Mills will miss this weekend with an injury he picked up in London and the excuses have run dry. The only question that remains is what will he do with this opportunity?
Douglas has ticked the box every time he’s been given the chance to see the field. In week one against the Falcons, it was a clutch interception. In week 8 against the Jags, it was holding the fort with sound coverage and a crucial pass breakup.
He may be a slight misfit in the eyes of Schwartz due to the fact he rarely played man/press coverage at West Virginia, but surely in an off-look, he’d be better suited than ever? It appears as though the Eagles defensive coordinator has no choice but to find out. Douglas was reportedly frustrated last year when Darby returned and wobbled, but did this cause a rift between coach and player?
This game isn’t just big for Douglas in the sense of playing time, but his long-term future. The Eagles secondary is in a strange situation when it comes to deciphering their long term future. Ronald Darby is in his contract year and Jalen Mills enters his next season. That leaves Rasul Douglas as the only outside with corner with over one year left on his deal, making him a valuable trade asset if the team do want to move on, or a sense of stability if the Eagles do decide to let Darby walk.
The issue is that anything less than an excellent showing isn’t going to cut it for a coordinator who has been so reluctant to play him thus far. The second half of this season is all or nothing for Rasul Douglas.
Douglas has done well to put the secondary on his shoulders at short notice whenever he’s been asked to step up, but now he has to put his own career on his shoulders too. If he can ball out in the absence of Jalen Mills and make a statement, it may finally be enough to convince Jim Schwartz that he does belong in this defense. If it doesn’t, it will at least drive a market. But if he falls under the radar, he’ll slip back down the depth chart as names off the street continue to come in and steal a spotlight he rightfully earned.
From here on out, it’s all or nothing.
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