Cornerback is Shaping Up to be Eagles’ Achilles Heel
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Rasul Douglas was one of the stars of the Eagles' offseason work until the Zebras showed up.
The lengthy third-round pick with the transcendent ball skills was fitting in seamlessly with a group desperate for playmakers but there is a lot of differences between playing the game at the college level and making the leap to the pros.
For corners, it generally starts with the accuracy of the quarterbacks and the number of bad throws they might see in a game. The bigger issue, however, might be just how tightly the 2017 NFL calls contact with its receivers.
Back at West Virginia, Douglas could get away with a little physicality and for a big corner who lacks top-end speed, that's a key part of the tool box.
During offseason work in the NFL, however, corners aren't even allowed to play press coverage or bump and run. While that obviously changes come training camp, the rules are still weighted heavily toward the receiver.
Douglas figured that out quickly when referees showed up for minicamp and yellow started following the rookie around like the most loyal of dogs.
By the time minicamp ended Douglas was being yelled out by secondary coach Cory Undlin for questioning the officials' attention to detail and he had lost first-team reps to second-year corners C.J. Smith and Aaron Gymes.
Asked how comfortable he was with a position highlighted by a second-year player graded as the worst qualifying corner in the game by ProFootballFocus.com last season, Jalen Mills, as well as an oft-injured, underachieving veteran, Patrick Robinson, coach Doug Pederson intimated some concern.
"Some young guys are out there getting valuable experience. You're seeing [CB] Rasul [Douglas] out there getting some reps and [CB] Aaron Grymes out there and [CB] Jalen [Mills], those guys are that are young players and are getting valuable reps," Pederson said before pivoting toward the kicker.
"By no means is the roster even set or starters even selected," the coach admitted.
You don't have to be Marcus Hayes reading tone or body language to get the message there.
With the injured Sidney Jones in a holding pattern, Pederson and his defensive coordinator Jim Schwarz are concerned for good reason, the talent is just not there at the CB position for the Eagles.
"It's just still a competition out there at that position," Pederson said. "I'm really curious when we get into camp with the pads on and we get to do a little more of the physical bump-and-run and things like that."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen