Rasul Douglas is Improving as Confidence Grows
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There are moments in an NFL game where you can almost see a younger player gaining confidence.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson believes he saw one of them during the Eagles 28-13 win over Washington Sunday.
Rasul Douglas, the second-year cornerback forced into action due to a host of injuries at the position, has struggled at times but with under 11 minutes to go in the game a desperate Jay Gruden dialed up some trickery, instructing Mark Sanchez to throw a backward pass to Jordan Reed, who promptly threw it all the way back across the field to running back Chris Thompson.
The effect of the sleight of hand was just as it was drawn up with the misdirection drawing the eyes of most of the Philadelphia defenders to Reed and leaving Thompson with a ton of open real estate. One player wasn't sucked in, though, and that was Douglas, who trusted his instincts and slipped around Trent Williams to make a diving tackle on Thompson, turning what could have been a huge play into a run-of-the-mill, eight-yard pickup.
The Redskins, who were facing a 3rd-14 on the play, were forced to punt instead of perhaps getting back into earshot in the football game.
“I just tried to do whatever needed to be done to make the play," Douglas said.
Things haven't been great for Douglas in coverage at times with the West Virginia product being graded out as No. 90 of 113 corners who have played enough to be rated by ProFootballFocus.com but the strength of his game is physicality as a big 6-foot-2, 210-pound option who is bigger than most of his peers.
And getting a big tackle in run support or the open field like Douglas did against Thompson could buoy the confidence of a younger player trying to hold up on the outside in the NFL.
“I think I saw [confidence] in Rasul last night,” Pederson said on Tuesday. “Some of the plays he made, not necessarily in the passing game, but in the run game, being able to come up and make some big plays. That’s what confidence can bring.”
Douglas didn't hesitate and went to make a play no one else was in a position to stop, the type of moment a young player can build on.
And the Eagles will need that.
Douglas has already started three games at right cornerback where Ronald Darby is out for the season after tearing his ACL. Meanwhile, the starter on the other side, Jalen Mills, is also sidelined with a foot injury and unlikely to play in Dallas this weekend, meaning it will again be Douglas and Sidney Jones on the outside for Jim Schwartz.
"The more plays you make, the more confidence you have, and probably the freer you play when you're on the field," Schwartz said when discussing Douglas and the play he made. "That was a big play for us. I don't know that it would've gone the distance. You look at the play, we have guys that when he threw it back, they're coming, but it was probably going to be a pretty good chunk of a gain right there.
"Rasul did his job on that play. He was the last line of defense and was able to get -- again, a tough back and he also had to defeat Trent Williams, who is obviously one of the best blockers. That was a huge play for us at a critical point in that game. If they were able to keep that drive alive and score, and all have a sudden it's a one-score game. So obviously that was a big play, and he can build off of that."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen