Rasul Douglas may be the Eagles’ most valuable trade chip…but why?

SS

With the NFL Draft now under a week away and the world none the wiser as to what Philadelphia will do when they’re on the clock at 25, speculation surrounding potential trades is building.

If the Eagles were to move up in this year’s draft, not having a third-round pick would make things complicated. They’d have to part ways with one of their second-round picks and likely a fourth rounder or a potential asset. When you begin looking at likely trade candidates, there’s one name that sticks out…and for the most perplexing of reasons.

Cornerback, Rasul Douglas.

The drop off in talent at cornerback after the first-round in this year’s class is fairly steep if you’re looking for an instant starter. Partner that with the fact that Douglas is just 23-years old and with two rookie contract season’s left, on the back of a resurgent 2018, what you have is a nice short-term fix for a trade partner, while the Eagles, who are loaded with depth at the position, won’t miss him too much…but why?

It’s this part that’s the most puzzling. For whatever reason, Rasul Douglas has been left out in the cold time and time again since his rookie year. The ball-hawking West Virginia product filled in for an injured Ronald Darby as a rookie and performed admirably in his five starts. With 11 passes defensed to his name, it was easy to see why he would be frustrated when instantly benched upon Darby’s return to health.

It took the former Buffalo Bill a while to get comfortable, especially considering the timing of his arrival to begin with, which was just weeks before game one of the regular season. Feathers were ruffled and in 2018, Douglas was only subjected to more of the same.

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?

Nope.

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 had played in 94 through 8 games up to that point.

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.

But since Douglas was given the reins against the first game against Dallas that year, he never looked back. Hitting ferociously, reading the game at speeds previously unseen in his play and still showing he can go up and pluck balls out of the air, Douglas became a key asset in holding the defense together.

The heartbreaking touchdown given up to Dallas in overtime is what will stick out, but the team shouldn’t have been put in that position to begin with.

Douglas totaled four games with 9+ tackles in his return to the Eagles defense, not to mention leading the team in interceptions with 3. He’s not as polished as Darby, or as consistent in tackling as Mills, but flashes starting quality was visible in every game he played. Things were looking up for the rangy cornerback…and then the Eagles signed Ronald Darby to a sizable one-year deal.

All of a sudden, Douglas has been blackballed to the bottom of the depth chart again and it would be completely understandable to expect frustration and a wish for a fresh start. If Darby and Mills are to be named the starters, with Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Avonte Maddox making up the rest of the depth, the Eagles could afford to lose Douglas, no matter how illogical it seems.

The sad reality is that Douglas is valued far higher by fans than he is the coaching staff. Jim Schwartz alluded to the development of Douglas late in the 2018 season..

“He’s certainly been an improved player for us. He had some rough spots early in the year, and he was also helping out in some positions that — I mean, it was tough throwing him out there at safety because of some of the situations that we had, but he’s come up big at the right time.”

“I think his journey this year has sort of mimicked the defense as a whole. He’s playing his best football late in the season. He’s overcome some things. He’s put some performances behind him. He’s tackled much better. I think all the things you can say about Rasul you could probably just put the defense right next to him.”

But if Douglas is truly going to spend another year suffocating under the weight of starters above him, stunting his growth until a presumed jump to a starting role in 2020 presents itself, then it makes sense to trade him.

Even in that ‘ideal’ scenario, there’s no guarantee that Douglas would start in 2020 anyway. If it took Dexter McDougle running into a linebacker to put him on the field, why would the team optionally start him?

There’s something more to the story so far than meets the eye, but if it comes down to pursuing a rookie talent that the team are in love with, then it would make sense to part ways with a player, for whatever reason, they are not.

More from our Sister Sites