Eagles-Chiefs: Douglas for Darby? Not So Fast
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — When the Eagles finished selecting their draft class back in April, it was clear that the rookie that needed to get on the field quickly was third-round cornerback Rasul Douglas.
The context there was that first-round defensive end Derek Barnett was added to a position of strength while the Eagles selected second-round cornerback Sydney Jones with the understanding that the first-round talent wasn't going to be ready in September due to a torn Achilles suffered at his pro day.
More so, the Eagles had yet to fortify the CB position with a pair of trades during training camp that brought Ronald Darby and Dexter McDougle to Jim Schwartz's defense.
Early in the process, things were going well for the lengthy Douglas as he often showed off the ball skills that made him a sensation at West Virginia.
As things progressed into the summer, however, Douglas' learning trajectory slowed, a major reason why Philadelphia felt the need to go outside the organization to get help at the position.
Douglas simply wasn't ready and he was inactive during the season-opening win in Washington.
The NFL can be a war of attrition, however, and Darby went down with a dislocated ankle early in the second quarter against the Redskins, forcing Schwartz to scramble.
At first, the defensive coordinator kicked nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson outside while sliding safety Malcolm Jenkins into the slot and inserting Corey Graham on the back end.
At halftime, Schwartz decided it was better to affect one position rather than three and went to versatile veteran Jaylen Watkins on the outside and the Eagles made it through the game.
Now with a week to prepare for Kansas City and the NFL's biggest home-run threat, Tyreek Hill, it looks as if the outside corner opposite Jalen Mills will be either Watkins or Douglas.
"I can't go without mentioning the contribution Jaylen Watkins made to that [Redskins] game because there was a personnel package to replace Darby, we would have had to move three different guys, and rather than doing that, we just plugged Jaylen in, and for the whole second half all he did was go out there and execute his job and made a big play," Schwartz said earlier this week. "… He made a big play, big hit and limited a run after the catch, and I thought he was up to the challenge. That was good to see."
The clear indication there is that Schwartz wants just one moving part and Douglas will at least be in the mix even if Watkins gets the start as expected.
Mills, who went through his own baptism by fire as a rookie seventh-round pick a season ago, is already giving Douglas some advice.
"You gotta trust yourself, you're here for a reason," Mills said. "Those guys [the opponents] get paid to and are going to make some plays. This is the NFL, there are always threats but at the end of the day, you gotta go out compete each and every play."
Mills has become a favorite of Schwartz for that very reason, he competes no matter what happened on the last play, good or bad.
"You’re going to see things that aren’t going to go your way. You’re not going to make every play. You just gotta keep fighting," Douglas said when describing the advice Mills proffered.
Whoever is outside you can bet Andy Reid will find a way to scheme a few matchups with Hill, the unspeakably fast WR in a league defined by speed.
Douglas is not known for the stopwatch like Darby is but few CBs can matchup with Hill in that regard anyway so technique is the key, something that generally comes slowly for most rookies.
"There’s no comparison," Douglas said when asked where is now versus when he first arrived in Philadelphia. "When I came here, I was all over the place. I wasn’t technique sound. Now, I'm a lot better."
And everyone has been chipping in to help whether it's defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, the veterans on the back end, and even potential Hall of fame safety Brian Dawkins after practice.
"He told me to always understand the ‘why?’" Douglas said when talking about Dawkins' help. "Why does Schwartz call this defense? Why are you playing outside leverage instead of inside leverage? Stuff like that."
973espn.com Prediction: Chiefs 28, Eagles 20
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen