The Eagles made a smart move by doubling down on day two at the cornerback position when they selected Rasul Douglas with their third round pick. Considering the need at cornerback and the riskiness of the Sidney Jones pick, it was only logical to invest another high pick on corner. Only this time, the pick should be seeing playing time immediately.
A lot of things stand out about Rasul Douglas. First of all, he has a cool name and that should be noted. Secondly, he just looks like an NFL cornerback. At 6’2”, 209 pounds with 32.5 inch arms, Rasul Douglas is built like a Madden Create a player. That is the type of size NFL teams covets because those types of players have the upside to neutralize receivers at the line and body them at the catch point. For Douglas, while his name is great and his size is greater, his best asset that he brings to the Eagles football team is playmaking.
Last season, Rasul Douglas picked off eight passes in the Big 12 compared to only 4 allowed touchdowns. This is not bad considering the high volume passing offenses in that conference. According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted 93 times last year and only allowed 44.1% completion, picking off eight passes and batting down 10 more. Douglas has very good eyes in terms of tracking the ball and his huge frame often allows him to outplay receivers in man coverage. Douglas was used in a heavy zone scheme and was at his best coming forward to attack the ball after diagnosing.
Here is a good example of Douglas’ ability to locate and make a play on the ball in zone coverage. While it is not an interception, it is a tone setting hit where he places his helmet on the ball to knock it free. This type of awareness in zone is a massive asset for Jones, as is his general awareness of the ball.
This play, while the result of a bad initial play that I will show you later, shows more of Douglas’ ball skills. He is able to pursue the running back from behind and punch the ball out for a turnover to change the play. In general, Douglas is always looking to make a play on the ball and the Eagles defense ins in desperate need of that big play ability from the cornerback position.
Douglas has some rawness as a man coverage corner. Despite his immense size, West Virginia used him sparingly as a press cornerback, opting for off man and zone. His rawness in press means that his hand placement when asked to press is inconsistent and bad jams can lead to easy releases and him finding himself off balance. Down the field, Douglas also has a tendency to blatantly interfere with receivers before the ball is in the air. There is a method to being physical with receivers through the route, but Douglas is often a bit too obvious. A part of that could be his speed. His combine testing was unimpressive for a cornerback and that lack of speed and agility shows up in his play.
Even on a simple crosser, Douglas immediately gives up the inside release because he is playing off and does not have the quickness to match with the receiver, he is easily scored on here. His speed is absolutely something that can be compensated for given his length because he can use it to close space with the ball in the air and also learning to press at the line will mitigate a receiver’s speed advantage. However, like was said before, Douglas has a lot to learn as a press cornerback.
Last among Douglas’ issues are how he deals with blocks by wide receivers.
In both plays, Douglas shows passivity in attacking the blocks despite his size advantage and that ultimately gives up the big play in both instances. Douglas shows a general willingness to tackle and, overall, is not even a bad run defender, but he needs to be more physical when asked to take on perimeter blocks to limit the outside running game.
NFL Comparison: Because of his size, general lack of speed, but plus ball skills, Douglas is very similar to Brandon Browner. The league did not get to see Browner in his prime for a long time due to him spending part of his early career in Canada. However, Browner developed into a playmaking press cornerback who was able to close the speed gap with size, physicality and ball skills. Douglas has a lot of the same tools and if he can learn to press more consistently, he could be a similar player.
Given the talent on the Eagles roster, Douglas figures to see the field sooner than later. Given his experience as a zone coverage and off man cornerback, he fits into the Eagles scheme nicely. Although, for the sake of both parties, I would love to see the Eagles try to employ more press man with Douglas over time to allow him to grow into using his frame the way it should be. Due to his lack of speed, it is hard to see Douglas ever be a top cornerback on the team. However, his size and playmaking ability should make him an impact defender. The plan for him should be to use him as the outside cornerback in three receiver sets, allowing Patrick Robinson to slide inside. Do this for a few games and see how comfortable he gets before moving him outside full time. While there will be some growing pains given where Douglas is raw, the game will slow down for hm and he will give the Eagles the same ball hawk that he gave West Virginia.