A point of emphasis for improvement has been the cornerback position, dating back to the 2018 season when half of the defensive secondary was injured. One player remained a constant since his arrival into the NFL in 2017. That player is the former West Virginia Mountaineer himself, Rasul Douglas. Just about every season, I have watched Douglas improve exponentially, but he hasn’t been blessed with the starting cornerback position yet. In 2019, with the cornerback position again thin, that has to change.
Let’s go back to the year that the Philadelphia Eagles won Superbowl 52. Rasul Douglas wasn’t playing a ton of snaps in his rookie season, but still made plays when he was in the ballgame. In that season, he was only beaten three times for a touchdown and had two interceptions of his own. Philip Rivers, Brock Osweiler, and Dak Prescott were the quarterbacks who happened to throw one touchdown against Douglas, while the two interceptions belonged to Eli Manning and Cam Newton. Douglas had standout games against the Chiefs, Giants, Cardinals, Redskins, 49ers, Broncos, and Bears that season where he showed his coverage ability. His rookie year, tackling was a main concern.
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles secondary was bit with the injury bug. Players started to drop like flies, but Rasul Douglas remained healthy. When the Eagles needed to rely on Douglas the most, he showed up to play. Between the newly discovered depth that Philadelphia realized on their roster and the improvements from Douglas’ rookie season, the Eagles found a way into the playoffs and the NFC Divisional playoff round. Douglas once again only gave up three touchdowns but bested his 2017 interception total in 2018 with three. Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, and DeShaun Watson beat Douglas for a touchdown each, while the three interceptions belonged to Matt Ryan, Prescott, and Josh Johnson.
In every part of his game, Rasul Douglas improved dramatically from his rookie season. He played 659 snaps in 2018 versus the 424 in 2017 and amassed 62 tackles. 2018 was the season where Douglas became the Philadelphia Eagles premier tackler at the cornerback position. He had standout games against the Saints (twice), Redskins (twice), Cowboys, Rams, Texans, and Bears. In these games, Douglas was thrust into a position where he had to make plays in a makeshift secondary. While it was a fight for the Eagles to win those games and gain a playoff berth, he was a part of the puzzle to make that happen!
So far this season, Rasul Douglas is a part of a bigger role in the Philadelphia Eagles secondary, but I think that he is ready to be the guy. Part of this is evident in the victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers and DaVante Adams were making plays early and often in the first half of that game. Sidney Jones was getting beat on coverage each time Green Bay threw the ball. That slowed down when Jim Schwartz made the executive decision to switch Douglas onto Adams. All of a sudden, Rodgers wasn’t consistently passing that way. Rodgers was forced to make more plays with his feet and started to throw more passes towards Geronimo Allison.
2018 was the best season yet for Rasul Douglas in the NFL. His quick development at cornerback is something that cannot be overlooked any longer. He has only given up two touchdowns in 2019, both to Case Keenum in the season opener against the Redskins. However, from week one to week four, Douglas has been the man called upon to shut down key receivers. Continuing a trend of being one of the surest tacklers on the Philadelphia Eagles secondary, he is starting to fuse that with the coverage aspect of his game. After knocking the offseason rust off against Washington, Douglas has been the best cornerback on the Eagles. The season is still young, which is why I have the faith that Douglas will only become a bigger asset to the Philadelphia defense.
In his 272 snaps in 2019, Rasul Douglas’ best game has been against the Falcons. While he did slip in tackling that game, he rebounded against the Packers. Speaking of formidable opponents in the NFL, Douglas proves he can more than just “hang” with elite players such as Julio Jones and DaVante Adams. After the rough start to the season against the Redskins, no offense has topped thirty-yards in receiving or beat Douglas for a touchdown. It’s time to hear those “RASUL” echoes throughout Lincoln Financial Field as he matches up at the top cornerback position.
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports