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."

Why Eagles' play in trenches are behind 8-game win streak

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Why Eagles' play in trenches are behind 8-game win streak

The strength of the Eagles is built on fundamental, sound pay on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Yes, the play of Carson Wentz is the biggest reason the Birds are 9-1, but the play of the defensive line and offensive line are also major factors.

There was no question coming into the season that the DL would pull its weight. I doubt if knowledgeable football minds could argue against the D-line being ranked the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz centered his defense around the play of his D-line's ability to generate constant pressure on opposing offenses, whether that's in the run game — the Eagles are the NFL's best run defense — or creating havoc on quarterbacks in the pocket. The defensive line has allowed the young secondary to catch up and perform well above expectations, and then Ronald Darby returned Sunday in Dallas (see story).

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line has also become a top-five unit in the NFL, and that's without future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. I know Carson Wentz wouldn't argue that.

In Sunday's 37-9 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles' O-line, against a pass rush with featuring a stout defensive front that includes NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawerence (11 1/2), didn't allow a sack. A lot of credit goes to Lane Johnson for his work on Lawrence.

With no real individual leader to hold this Eagles' offense's hat on, it's a total team effort in which the Eagles go about their about their business. This is just a shining example of why this O-line is so good and underrated. At 9-1, there has not been a wide receiver over 100 yards in a game. If my memory serves me right, the Birds have had a 100-yard rusher twice, both by LeGarrette Blount. So, even with the absence of the all-world Peters, I am secure in rating the Eagles' OL as the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Fundamentally speaking, football is won in the trenches. I was privileged to be a part of a Super Bowl team with the same formula the Eagles are using to win eight straight games: A young franchise QB (Ben Roethlisberger), a really good defense and a very good O-line.

The Eagles are just scratching the surface with their potential. Like these young players — guys like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Derek Barnett — develop in the trenches, the sky's the limit for the core of this team.

Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

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Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

One kicker is getting better. One kicker just got hurt. One kicker isn’t even a kicker at all. Who’s going to kick Sunday? Maybe Caleb Sturgis, maybe Jake Elliott, maybe someone else. Definitely not Kamu Grungier-Hill. 
 
Does that clear everything up?
 
Head coach Doug Pederson revealed Monday that Elliott, the rocket-legged rookie, will be the Eagles’ placekicker long-term moving forward, but he also said he doesn’t know whether Elliott — who suffered a concussion Sunday night during the win in Dallas — will be available for this Sunday’s game at home against the Bears.
 
"We haven't made any decisions yet," Pederson said. "We still have a couple days before we have to make a decision."
 
Elliott replaced Sturgis, who suffered a quad strain in the opener against the Redskins and has been on injured reserve since. 
 
Ideally, the Eagles want Elliott to be cleared through the NFL’s concussion protocol and be able to kick Sunday so they can keep Sturgis on IR. 

If Elliott isn’t ready, they could activate Sturgis, who Pederson said is "close," but that would mean they would have to clear a spot on the 53-man roster for a guy who they don’t plan on keeping long-term. 
 
"He's continuing to rehab, he's begun a kicking regimen," Pederson said. "He's getting himself back to where he was prior to the injury. He's close. He's close."
 
If neither Elliott nor Sturgis is able to go, the Eagles could add a third kicker for a week or two, although that would also require keeping two kickers on the 53 (and another on IR).
 
"Again, you're talking about roster spots and making moves and things of that nature," he said. "We're not there yet. We'll continue these discussions the next couple days."
 
Most importantly, Pederson said despite Sturgis’ excellent track record since joining the Eagles, Elliott will be the team’s kicker once everybody is healthy. 
 
"I think so," Pederson said. "If he's healthy and he can play. You hate to disrupt that right now. I'd have to say yes to that one."
 
Sturgis is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Elliott is under contract through 2018, and the Eagles control his rights through 2019.
 
Elliott, whom the Eagles signed off the Bengals’ practice squad in September, is 17 for 21 this year. He missed from 34 yards against the Cowboys Sunday night, although that miss came after he apparently suffered the concussion. 

Pederson said the concussion symptoms weren't discovered until after Elliott had attempted the field goal.
 
Elliott has made five of six attempts from 50 yards and out, including the franchise-record, game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants.
 
Sturgis is 7 for 11 as an Eagle from 50 yards and out. Including his years with the Dolphins, he's an 81.0 percent kicker, although with the Eagles he's made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts — third-best in franchise history behind Cody Parkey (87.5 percent) and Alex Henery (86.0 percent).
 
"I think moving forward, as we continue to evaluate this week, we'll find out more in the next couple days with Jake, and I don't want to put myself in a box, but we'll keep all the options open," Pederson said.
 
"It kind of goes back to the same old thing. We still have a couple days here today and tomorrow to evaluate Jake and see where everybody's at. There's still a little while before we play Sunday."
 
There's one other option.

No, not letting Grugier-Hill kick. Going for two all the time.
 
Pederson — who's 9 for 12 as Eagles head coach on two-point conversion attempts — admitted he's thought about it.
 
"Yeah, I have," he said. "You always go into a game with a few (plays) in your pocket. You never expect that situation again like we had last night. But, yeah, you look at the numbers. If you're around 94, 95 percent on the extra point from the 15-yard line, your conversion rate should be in that 47, 48, 49 percent on a two-point conversion. So we look at all of that.
 
"We keep a couple extra plus-five red zone plays in our pocket for that situation. It just worked out, I think 3 for 4 last night. It's something we'll look at going forward."