Updated: Oct 15, 2019
With the Philadelphia Eagles secondary peppered again with injuries, Rasul Douglas has taken this time to show why he should be a permanent starter. He has landed in Pro Football Focus' top 15 cornerbacks for 2019 so far.
His playmaking abilities have slowly but finally been showing up. If you look at Douglas' stats for 2019, you’re going to only see sixteen tackles and zero interceptions. That may have you asking "Okay, but where are the stats, why is he in the top 15?" But if you dig a little further, you'll see that Douglas is tied for 5th among cornerbacks by recording six passes defended through the first five weeks this NFL season. His forced incompletion rating is 29.6, which is the highest in the league for players who have been targeted 25 times or more.
I have seen his potential since day one, yelling at the television because they constantly put Sidney Jones in over Douglas. Each time the team has been forced to put Douglas in due to injuries to the other corners, he has shined like the playmaker he is. He has showed us all that he has the confidence and skills to be one of the Eagles' best cornerbacks overall.
In 2018 the Eagles had almost the same exact injury problems they are dealing with now at cornerback, especially with Ronald Darby and Jones. Even when Douglas was thrown into action back then, he would make the most of it. During the 2017 and 2018 season, he had five interceptions (and that’s with limited playing time). Now in his third season, he has not yet had an interception, so the fact that he lands in the top twenty of all the cornerbacks in the league is something to be proud of.
Looking back I know Week 1 was not his best game, allowing Terry McLaurin to get away for basically a free touchdown. One of his weaknesses is speed, but so far it doesn't feel like he gets beat constantly by double moves. On the other hand, Jalen Mills, Darby and Jones all seemingly get beat by double moves regularly. When the Eagles get Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc back, they will likely make some plays the team has been missing out on.
Douglas does come with cons of course. One of which already mentioned is his speed, so if you put him on a speedy wide receiver he is going to have a hard time. He seems to do his best when lined up against bigger, redzone threat wide receivers like Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys. I know after making that comparison, that most people will think of last year's game against the Cowboys where Cooper scored the game-ending touchdown against Douglas, but that was not just his fault. the Eagles were struggling terribly all over the place allowing Cooper to get 217-yards which was not his best performance as many will agree. But the game-ending touchdown was actually a great play by Douglas to force the deflection, it was just unfortunate that the ball hung up in the air for Cooper to grab and walk into the endzone. Another part of his play that could be seen as an issue at times is his aggressiveness. It can be a pro at other times, but as a con he has given up many yards due to pass interference penalties.
He may not be the fastest cornerback but that doesn't stop him from always being around the ball. That aggressiveness, that could be a con at times, can be a positive in the fact that he breaks up passes constantly. If receivers do catch the ball around him, he can handle tackling on his own. He has been the team's best tackling corner since he was drafted, and it feels like he has developed into an even better tackler in his time with the team.
The Eagles need to make sure they go with the hot hand this Sunday in Minnesota. They seem to want Jones to be "the guy" and have always picked him over Douglas, but time and time again he has let them down to the point that Doug Pederson is now telling him he needs to find a way to stay on the field or else he might not have a permanent home in Philadelphia. After being selected in the 2nd round of 2017, through two and a quarter seasons Jones has only had 41 tackles with one interception. Compare that to Douglas, who was in the same draft class as Jones, he has had 97 tackles and five interceptions. Granted Jones has not been healthy, but they knew he was an injury-proned risk when they drafted him.
I see a more confident cornerback in Douglas with this added playing time. The fact is Douglas needs to be a starter and not just play when the starters are hurt. He has earned his spot, it's time to move on from the injury-prone cornerbacks as full-time starters and just let Douglas ball. This defense is beginning to find its rhythm after the Jets game. Don't be surprised to see Douglas making plays in the coming weeks, especially up against the toughest wide receivers on opposing teams.