Rasul Douglas hasn’t seen the field much this season but that could change this Sunday.
Rookie Avonte Maddox was the choice to switch positions and replace Rodney McLeod at safety so Douglas saw the field sparingly on defense from Week 1-5.
Fans and media members alike have speculated for two seasons now whether Douglas would be a fit at safety and Philadelphia got a first glimpse of that last week against the Giants.
Jones was forced out of the game with an injury, pushing Maddox inside and Douglas to safety.
The former third-round pick held his own with a 58.8 coverage grade, almost coming up with a diving one-handed interception.
That is what you get from Rasul Douglas. When he is on the field you never know when he will come up with a game-changing play.
Late in the season opener against the Falcons, with Atlanta driving in the red zone, Douglas came up with an interception to halt the Falcons drive. It was on his first play of the game, covering one of the best receivers in the NFL in Julio Jones.
Simply put, Douglas is a play-maker. And he may be needed in a big way against the Carolina Panthers this week.
Douglas is going to be on the field Sunday.
Jones is week to week and the Eagles were already thin in the secondary after McLeod was put on IR earlier in the season.
Maddox was filling in as the second safety next to Malcolm Jenkins, but he has been the backup in the slot throughout the season and was the one to fill in for Jones last week.
If Jim Schwartz keeps Maddox inside, Douglas would likely be back at safety for the second straight week. The Eagles could elect to move Mills inside with Douglas on the outside, or have him shadow Funchess/Olsen outside and inside.
The third option is an interesting one. If the Eagles run more Cover 2 like they did last week, Jenkins is going to be playing deep. If that is the case Douglas could come inside if Funchess or Olsen lined up in the slot.
Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham could be used against Olsen in coverage but they both will be needed in spying Cam Newton, and potentially keying in on Christian McCaffrey who the Panthers like to use all over the field.
This is the kind of game where having Douglas is big. Douglas is the biggest, lengthiest secondary member for the Eagles and that was a huge part of the defense’s success last season against the Panthers, who used big receivers like Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin.
He probably had his best game of 2017 against Carolina.
Douglas will struggle to keep up with quicker receivers in space but he matches up well with a bigger receiver like Funchess. Here, Douglas is all over Funchess jamming him from separating across the middle.
On Douglas’s interception, a lot of this play resulted in Fletcher Cox getting to Newton up the middle. However, Douglas does a great job jamming Funchess on the line which allows him to stay inside and line himself up in perfect position to intercept the pass.
That is a 6’4 receiver he forced back.
On this deep attempt to Benjamin, Douglas is left one on one and does a great job not only reading the double move, but also creating contact and slowing down Benjamin from getting near the ball. If this was Darby on the outside making contact, Benjamin might blow through him and get open. Douglas is big enough to absorb and match Benjamin’s contact.
Not a lot of corners can go up with a 6’5 corner and match his length at the catch point on a fade.
Funchess scored a touchdown off a jump ball in the red zone last week and if Darby is the corner in coverage, Funchess would have five inches on him.
Even if the Eagles use Douglas as a safety, he will be important against Funchess. If the Panthers give him chances down the field to come up with a contested pass, Douglas being over the top to help Darby or Mills contest could help in a big way.
Overall for his first start at safety, the West Virginia product did a solid job of taking away space for Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants receivers down the field.
We will have to wait until Sunday to see what the Eagles do with Douglas, but without a lot of healthy bodies in the secondary, he will see plenty of playing time.
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