For the last eight weeks, Eagles rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas would let himself be a fan briefly during pregame warmups. As he prepared for each game on the field, he would take a moment to admire some of the NFL wide receivers he once watched while dreaming of playing in the NFL.
Then he spent the rest of his afternoons trying to shut them down.
"After that, it's me against you," Douglas said. "Us against y'all."
For the most part, Douglas has held up during his rookie season. Sure, there were some miscues along the way, but over the last two months the third-round pick from West Virginia has been proving he belongs in the NFL.
It just seems like he's now destined to retake his seat on the bench.
Ronald Darby is expected to return to action this weekend against the Cowboys and the only reason Douglas ever got a chance to play was because Darby suffered that ankle injury in Week 1. With Darby back (see story), he'll start on the outside with Jalen Mills, while Patrick Robinson continues to hold down his slot corner spot.
That leaves Douglas as the odd man out.
"It's football. It happens," Douglas said. "One of the reasons I'm playing is because he got hurt, so he's back, we'll see how it goes.
"Of course [it's tough]. You always want to play, but at the end of the day, my job is to help the team win any way I can. If that means I have to get the water for the guys when they come off the field or if I have to play 60 snaps or I have to play one snap. However much I play, I have to do my job the best I can."
Douglas, 22, was actually inactive for the season opener against Washington, when Darby got hurt, but he's been active in every game since. And he's played a significant role for the Eagles on defense. He has played 336 out of 578 defensive snaps (58 percent) on the season.
In the last eight games, Douglas has started four. He has 30 tackles, nine passes defensed and two interceptions.
"Listen, he's made some rookie mistakes and he's given up some plays here and there," defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said, "but I think with the expectations we have in our room with this defense for this team right now, there's not an option to go out there and not play [well]. If he didn't, he wouldn't be out there. We'd go to the next guy. I think he's come in and he's grabbed his position. Whatever role he's in, he knows when he's out there, he has to play well. It's not going to change going forward."
The play of the entire cornerback group — Douglas included — is probably one of the reasons the Eagles didn't feel tempted to rush Darby back into action. Originally, the team thought he would be back in 4 to 6 weeks, but he missed a total of eight games. The Eagles went 7-1 in that stretch.
On Monday, Darby said having depth at corner will allow him to be honest about when he might need to take a break during games as he gets back into football shape.
"Yeah, I noticed how good [Douglas] was when I first got in," said Darby, who joined the team through a trade in August.
The Eagles were chugging along without Darby but they're about to begin a pretty tough part of their schedule as they make a push to become the NFC's top seed. They're happy to have Darby back.
But they're also pretty happy to know they can rely on Douglas if anything happens again.
"I just try to display what I can do," Douglas said. "Coach knows now what I can do. He knows if he needs me to play a few reps, snaps, one snap, 60 snaps, that I can do it."