Rasul Douglas is Ready for Increased Role
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Rasul Douglas got thrown into the deep end of the pool during his rookie season.
The 2017 third-round pick out of West Virginia played before he probably should have after starting cornerback Ronald Darby went down in the season opener against Washington with a dislocated ankle.
For the next month the lengthy 6-foot-2 New Jersey native was a starting CB in the NFL, overmatched at times but aggressive and forgetful, two traits Jim Schwartz loves in his defensive backs.
By his second game as a professional Douglas was playing in 74 percent of the team's defensive snaps in Kansas City and then was a full-time player for the two weeks after, playing 100 percent of the time.
The results weren't great but it was also far from terrible. In what turned out to be a Super Bowl season, Douglas did his part by holding his own. From Week 5 on Douglas' role lessened incrementally as Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson held things down well before Darby ultimately returned at Dallas on Nov. 19.
When it was all said and done Douglas finished his inaugural season playing in 41 percent of the defensive snaps and amassing 39 tackles with two interceptions and 14 passes defended, solid production for a third-round selection. When the rotation was shortened on the back end in the playoffs, however, Douglas was active but did not play on defense.
With Robinson gone to New Orleans in free agency, there is now an opening with a lot of moving parts this spring, as Schwartz rotates bodies into the slot position in an effort to find his top mix on game days.
On Thursday at the NovaCare Complex, Darby was moved inside to the slot with the first-team defense with Douglas handling the work at RC.
Typically Schwartz like his players to be as versatile as possible but with his size, Douglas has been one of the few CBs on the team that the defensive coordinator is keeping outside the numbers.
“I like myself outside, but I can play anything," Douglas insisted.
Schwartz intimated that Douglas may ultimately get an opportunity at safety as well where the team is the lookout for someone in the Corey Graham role as the third safety who enables Schwartz to move Malcolm Jenkins all over the formation.
“Some guys, we’ll keep strictly outside, but we have a significant portion that will cross-train," the defensive coordinator explained. "We even have some guys that will cross-train safety position and corner. “Again, going back, that was a big part of our success [last season] … having Malcolm be able to play a lot of those and fill in at a lot of different positions. We value versatility."
Throughout OTAs, however, Douglas confirmed he has not been tried at safety yet.
“I don’t know what their plans are," Douglas said. "I never talked to them about it [practicing at safety]."
Douglas, however, seems well-versed on the differences if cross-training is on the docket next week at mandatory minicamp or training camp later this summer.
“I feel like safety, you have to see the whole field," Douglas explained. "At corner, you’re more in man, so I’m looking from the quarterback to my guy and that’s it. But safety, you have to see everything."
For Douglas, he just wants to see the field, no matter the position.
“I’m confident now,” he said. “I know where I’m supposed to be, how I’m supposed to play.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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