Philadelphia Eagles: Rasul Douglas’ (lack of) speed kills

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Despite having supreme ball skills, Rasul Douglas’ lack of deep speed could severely limit his role with the Philadelphia Eagles moving forward.

Rasul Douglas may be the most perplexing player on the Philadelphia Eagles‘ roster.

Measuring in at a very healthy 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Douglas inadvertently came to Philadelphia as part of the Timmy Jernigan trade back in 2017, when he was selected 99th overall out of West Virginia.

A two-year starter with the Mountaineers after a successful stint in JuCo, what Douglas lacked in traditional straight-line speed – he ran a 4.59 at the combine – he more than made up for it with supreme ball skills – picking off an NCAA-leading eight passes as a senior alone.

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And thus far in his NFL career, Douglas has come as advertised.

A two-year performer with 14 starts in 35 career appearances, Douglas has defensed 15 passes in 966 defensive snaps. He’s also picked off five passes before his 24th birthday, giving Douglas the seventh-best ratio of interceptions per defensive snap played since his debut (as per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank).

On paper, adding a Richard Sherman-sized outside cornerback with Richard Sherman-lite ball skills in the third round is a dream come true, but there has to be a reason why Douglas hasn’t cemented himself as a starter across from Ronald Darby over the likes of Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills.

There is, alas, there is, and it was on full display in the Eagles Week 1 win over the surprisingly formidable Washington Redskins.

Despite ‘losing’ the team’s second outside cornerback spot to Jones in camp, Douglas still played early and often for the Eagles at their home field opener, replacing his draft classmate when Avonte Maddox left the game with cramps.

Douglas also logged some snaps on special teams, but that’s neither here or there.

With a chance to finally showcase his talents against ‘live’ bullets, Douglas played pretty well, at least until he gave up a brutal 69-yard bomb to rookie third-round pick Terry McLaurin with 9:57 minutes left in the second.

Now don’t get me wrong, McLaurin is fast, as he ran a 4.35 coming out of Ohio State, but between Douglas’ technique and his lack of recovery speed, the play was over once ‘Scary’ Terry broke the route inside.

Could an overhead safety have maybe prevented the play from going to the house? Sure, but that would have only covered up for an issue that will persist moving forward.

While Douglas may never be able to shadow opposing receivers like Darby, who ran a 4.38 coming out of Florida State back in 2015, his lack of outside speed on, well, the outside, could easily be exploited by even an average coordinator with an above-average receiver on his roster.

When Douglas is on the field, Jim Schwartz has typically resorted to playing his corners off the line of scrimmage – limiting their abilities to press at the line of scrimmage. Though pressing to disrupt initial routes could help to neutralize a receivers’ advantage coming off the line, Douglas’ lack of recovery speed leaves no room for error if it proves ineffective – especially since the Birds almost exclusively deploy a single high safety.

Douglas also has relatively tight hips, which prevents him from being an effective man-on-man defender against elusive, shifty receivers both on the outside or deployed in the slot.

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Who knows, maybe draft analysts were right all along and Rasul Douglas’ best NFL position could be at safety – filling a similar role to Andrew Sendejo‘s in the big nickel – but if the Philadelphia Eagles are serious about fielding their best lineup week in and week out, having to compensate for a perimeter cornerback’s lack of outside speed could become too cumbersome to justify.