Eagles

CB Rasul Douglas learned a lesson during rough Week 4 vs. Chargers

CB Rasul Douglas learned a lesson during rough Week 4 vs. Chargers

It's inevitable. It happens to every cornerback. And if it hasn't happened yet, it's about to happen.

On Sunday, it happened to Rasul Douglas.

"I play the hardest position out there, I'm going to give up catches, I'm going to give up touchdowns," Douglas said. "That's normal. You can't show me any corner who doesn't do it. I'm just happy we got the win. 

"My teammates, man. No matter what happened, they all had faith in me and they just kept talking me through it ... because sometimes I tend to let plays keep going [when] the play's over with.

"Malcolm (Jenkins) was like, 'OK, that play already happened, let's get back.' When they come out there and see you on the island, they're going to test you."

And Philip Rivers, a 14-year veteran who ranks 11th in NFL history in passing yards, knows how to test a young cornerback.

Douglas, the Eagles' rookie third-round cornerback, gave up two huge plays Sunday: Tyrell Williams' 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 50-yarder to Keenan Allen that set up a fourth-quarter Chargers touchdown.

They're the Chargers' two longest plays from scrimmage this year. The 75-yarder was the fourth-longest completion of Rivers' career.

On the 75-yard TD, Williams faked outside into Douglas, then made an inside move to gain separation near midfield and raced under a Rivers play-fake bomb, catching it at the 30 with Douglas 10 yards behind.

On the 50-yarder, Allen lost Douglas on a deep cross, Rivers got Allen the ball at the Eagles' 45-yard line and Douglas was so far out of the play that Allen was able to race all the way down to the 11 before Jenkins finally knocked him out of bounds.

The Eagles hung on to win 26-24 and improve to 3-1 despite allowing 347 passing yards.

"That's on me," Douglas said. "That's nobody else. Everything that happens on my side is because of me. If it's on my side, it's my fault. Always. We all hold each other accountable, and [Sunday] I had to hold myself accountable."

Douglas was inactive in the opener, but with Ronald Darby out indefinitely he's played a ton the last three weeks and started the last two. Douglas played at a high level against the Chiefs in his NFL debut and also against the Giants, when he recorded his first career interception, but Rivers went after him repeatedly Sunday at the StubHub Center.

"It's going to happen to every rookie at some point," Jenkins said. "Coming off a decent game last week, he got tested [Sunday]. Gave up a couple but kept fighting. That's the biggest thing. They want to see how you're going to handle that and I thought he stayed in the game, stayed locked in. He'll have some things he'll learn from it."

Douglas played 39 of 53 defensive snaps against the Chiefs and all 125 the last two weeks.

Things won't get any easier this weekend when Carson Palmer and the Cardinals come to town for a 1 p.m. Sunday game.

There are 13 quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 45,000 yards. In Eli Manning, Rivers and Palmer, the Eagles are facing three of them in a 15-day span.

"We just tell him, 'Man, keep your head up,'" Rodney McLeod said. "In this league as a cornerback, you're going to get scored on. It's going to happen. Every game isn't going to be perfect. It's how you bounce back, and it's how you respond. And I think [Douglas'] mentality is always great. 

"He didn't get down on himself. Not one bit. Line back up, challenge those guys. It's one game he's going to learn off, but I'm so proud of everything he did. He hung in there the entire game, and he's only going to continue to get better."

With second-round pick Sidney Jones out for perhaps the season with an Achilles injury from his pro day and Darby out since the opener, the Eagles are thin at cornerback. Safeties Jaylen Watkins and Corey Graham are also out, and McLeod missed the Giants game.

So it's not surprising that the Eagles are giving up a ton of passing yards.

Four weeks in, they rank 31st in the NFL in net passing yards allowed (285 per game), 23rd in TD passes allowed (7), 24th in opposing passing accuracy (66.0 percent) and tied for sixth in passing first downs allowed (51).

It's not all on Douglas, but Sunday was definitely a rough one for the 22-year-old from East Orange.

“He’s a competitor," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He’s a lot like Jalen (Mills) in that way. They’re young guys, they’re competitive. You need to have a short memory to play corner. …

"We have to play more consistently at the corner position. It’s not just about a singular flash play, it’s about consistency over the course of the game, and those guys are still working their way through that.”

Meetings and film study won't be particularly pleasant for Douglas this week, but he said he couldn't wait to get started.

"I'm going to critique myself the hardest," he said. "I want to be the best. I'll critique myself, and my teammates will let me know what I could have done to put myself in better situations to make a play."

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

usa-carson-birds.jpg
USA Today Images

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

us-kelce.jpg
USA Today Images

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

The Eagles are scheduled to have a pretty boring Day 2 of the draft this year. Because after they pick at No. 32, they don’t have another selection until the 31st pick of the fourth round. 

That means 98 players will be taken between the Eagles’ first and second picks. And they’ll have to watch other teams pick that entire Friday (Rounds 2-3) without them … unless they make a move. 

“We’re not looking at it like we’re sitting out on Friday,” Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said. “We’re going through our draft process looking at every scenario. When we get to Friday, we get to Friday.” 

Even if the Eagles don’t make a move, they’ll be plenty busy Saturday, the final day of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas showed up to his media availability with a stat ready to go to illustrate the importance of Day 3. 

“We’re excited that we have five picks on Saturday,” Douglas said. “When you look at the Super Bowl, there’s 22 starters that were third-round picks or lower. Of those 22, 18 of them were fourth-round picks or lower. So 18 starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents. We choose to keep the glass half full.” 

Douglas is right on all those stats — 22 of 44 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the third or lower and 18 of them would be considered Day 3 picks. Not bad. 

Here’s how the Super Bowl starters broke down by round: 1-10, 2-12, 3-4, 4-4, 5-3, 6-3, 7-2, UDFA-6. 

The Eagles accounted for seven of the 18 players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, so the Patriots were the ones who found even more value late in drafts. And of those seven, just three were original Eagles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills. 

Of the six undrafted players who started in the Super Bowl, two were from the Eagles — LeGarrette Blount and Rodney McLeod. Neither was an original Eagle, but the Birds also relied heavily on running back Corey Clement, who was an undrafted rookie last season. 

With a dearth of high draft picks, it would make sense if the Eagles attack the undrafted market following the draft, but Douglas thinks it won’t be as easy as many might think. 

“You would think because we’re coming off a Super Bowl, we don’t have a second or third round pick that it would be a lot easier after the draft,” Douglas said. “But my experience coming off a Super Bowl, it’s sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it’s going to be that much tougher to make the team. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us and we know it and we’re going to attack it.”

The Eagles in recent years have shown a willingness to pony up significant money to entice undrafted players to sign with them, and if Douglas is right, they might need to do it again to land some this year. 

Either way, the Eagles know how important Day 3 and beyond can be. So when they’re bored on Day 2, they don’t plan on losing focus.