Eagles

Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Rasul Douglas was walking out of the visiting locker room at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday and Mychal Kendricks jumped up from his locker and started walking with the 22-year-old rookie.

"You were great out there, man," the sixth-year linebacker said . "Like, dude. You played really, really well. You were ballin' out there."

Douglas looked stone-faced but Kendricks kept it up.

"I LIKE the way you played. You got after it, bro. Liked it. Liked it, man."

Finally Douglas cracked a huge smile. Yeah, the Eagles lost, but Douglas enjoyed an auspicious NFL debut Sunday when forced into action after Jaylen Watkins left the Eagles-Chiefs game with a hamstring injury.

He played 39 of 53 defensive snaps, and according to Pro Football Focus graded out as the ninth-highest cornerback in the league on Sunday.

“I was more anxious than nervous. Just some butterflies," Douglas said. "After the first couple series, I was like, 'Man, this is where I’m supposed to be.'"

Matched up much of the afternoon with explosive Tyreek Hill, he allowed four catches but for only 22 yards with only five yards after the catch, according to PFF. 

He was physical and tackled very well and didn't seem to have any significant breakdowns. Hill, who had a 7-for-133 line in the opener vs. the Patriots, finished Sunday with four catches for 43 yards.

"I felt like I played OK," Douglas said. "It’s never as good as you think, it’s never as bad as you think. Just have to watch film and get better."

The Eagles played most of the game Sunday down three defensive backs, with Ronald Darby out indefinitely with an ankle injury and Watkins and safety Rodney McLeod both out for at least the day with hamstrings.

But the patchwork secondary, with Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham at safety and Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Douglas at corner, played tough. 

Considering it was his first career game, Douglas's performance was impressive.

"Rasul stepped in and I thought he did a good job," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He tackled well and made no mental mistakes and that’s a tough duty against what they do offensively, from read option to reverses to shovel passes to jet sweeps to all the different stuff, and it’s a lot of moving parts, and I was proud of him for that part of it."

The Eagles allowed only two pass plays over 20 yards, but both were damaging — Alex Smith's 44-yarder to tight end Travis Kelce on the opening drive to set up a field goal (that was before Douglas entered the game) and Smith's 35-yarder to Chris Conley, who beat Mills, on the Chiefs' final touchdown drive.

Considering the state of the Eagles' secondary, it was a welcome performance.

"That’s the game," Jenkins said. "We understand that injuries happen, that’s why (other) guys prepare. 

"Honestly, we didn’t feel like we missed a step. Obviously, to lose a Rodney McLeod is tough, same thing with Jaylen Watkins, he’s our guy we can move around, but Rasul Douglas came in and played well, Corey Graham came in and gave us consistent snaps, he’s a veteran. So I don’t think we missed a beat on the back end."

Douglas was credited with four solo tackles, sharing the team lead with Vinny Curry and Jenkins, and he was credited with one pass breakup.

His tackling was exceptional. Five yards after the catch on four receptions means an average of 45 inches of YAC per reception.

"The way we played that game plan, we played off an awful lot against their receivers," Schwartz said. "It seemed every time we did get close to them we had a ball go over our heads, so we had a very concerted effort to keep them in front. That only works if you make tackles and I thought that Rasul, Jalen Mills and Jaylen Watkins when he was in the game, those guys did a good job of getting things tackled. 

"You can go and play 2nd-and-3, it’s hard when it’s a 40-yard chunk or a 50-yard chunk and it’s either a touchdown or the ball’s in the red zone. It only works if you’re making those tackles. 

"I’d say this: Rasul played with good anticipation. He didn’t cheat, he didn’t run down and guess. He played good technique and I was happy to see that.”

What will Douglas's role be moving forward? Tough to say. We don't know if McLeod and/or Watkins will be back for the Giants in the Eagles' home opener Sunday. And then there's Sidney Jones looming in the future as well, and the return of Darby later this fall.

But whatever the future holds, it was clearly an encouraging debut for the 6-2 rookie from West Virginia.

"Oh, it’s big," he said. "Definitely to see how (the NFL game) is. Especially going against one of the fastest players in football right now. It was definitely big for me."  

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

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AP Images

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

After beating up on the Cardinals, 34-7 in Week 5, the Eagles traveled to North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup against the Panthers. The Birds would use another composed and meticulous performance from Carson Wentz to sneak past the Panthers, 28-23.

Wentz finished with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns — backing up his best performance of the season so far in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

A victory over the Panthers puts the Birds at 5-1. They now hold the best record in the NFC and a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Redskins who sit at 3-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to Washington, which is coming off of a 26-24 victory over the 49ers.

Before the Birds host Washington on Monday night, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up three spots to No. 2
Florio wrote, “Carson Wentz needs to avoid contact, or the Eagles won’t be able to avoid having to play multiple games without him.”

Wentz has been hit a total of 41 times this season on dropbacks, the eighth most in the NFL. And that doesn’t include the number of times he has been hit when running. Wentz has to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting hit because the Eagles would take a huge hit in performance, morale and confidence if he were to be out for a significant amount of time.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 2
Harrison wrote, “Two things I like — LeGarrette Blount getting 14 carries. Keep working him. Also, Nelson Agholor contributing big plays including the touchdown reception to end a second-half drive.”

Agholor received a lot of criticism the past two seasons because of his inability to catch the football and deservedly so. He has had a solid start to the season thus far. In total, he has caught 20 balls on 30 targets for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns through six games this season are more than his total in his previous 28 games (three). Agholor has become a large part of the passing offense along with tight end Zach Ertz. Don’t expect it to change.

USA TODAY: Up three spots to No. 2
USA TODAY wrote, “Fletcher Cox leads front four that anchors league's best run defense and consistently jeopardizes quarterbacks without much blitz help."

Cox has been invaluable for the Birds this season and as a result, the run defense is in the top five. In the four games he has played this season, he has six total tackles and 2.5 sacks. The Eagles haven’t been rushing more than four on most occasions and have been able to get to the quarterback with ease. Moving forward, Cox’s value is huge to disrupting opposing offenses because of his size and speed in the middle of the line.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 2
Schwab wrote, “A good argument can be made for them being No. 1. However, they played the No. 1 team and lost. It was a competitive game in Kansas City, but it’s still part of the resumes.”

Each rankings outlet used in this piece outside of The Washington Post is reluctant to put the Birds at the top spot. While losing to the Chiefs in a close one at Arrowhead could be the tiebreaker for most, I think it is worth considering the Eagles at No. 1. The Chiefs losing at home to a lost Steelers team is something to be taken note of for later.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot at No. 2
Prisco wrote, “They are on a roll and showed at Carolina that they are one of the best teams right now. The defensive front is nasty.”

Last week, I wrote the game against Carolina was the Eagles’ biggest test thus far and they passed with flying colors. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated because of a late Carolina touchdown. Cam Newton didn’t have any time to throw and his three interceptions came as a result of the defensive front for the Birds stepping up once again.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Up two spots to No. 1
Maske wrote, “They have earned the top spot after an impressive triumph Thursday night at Carolina. Second-year QB Carson Wentz is getting better all the time while utilizing the help he has around him on a bolstered offense.”

Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top and they have earned it. The fact of the matter is rankers can’t come to terms with the Eagles at the top because of what happened last year after a 3-1 start. Waiting in the wings on Monday night is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who are looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance against the Eagles in Week 1.

ESPN: Up two spots to No. 2
ESPN wrote, “The 5-1 start to the Eagles' season is bolstered by the fact they've won three on the road. Now they get to play their next three at home, where they're 2-0 this season and 8-2 over the past two years.”

Lincoln Financial Field has been good to the Eagles over the last two seasons and fans should expect the Linc to be filled to capacity on Monday night. The buzz surrounding the team continues to grow exponentially. Now all the Birds have to do is keep the momentum going.

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

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CSN

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood were both back at Eagles practice Tuesday.
 
Johnson missed the Panthers game with a concussion he suffered against Cardinals, and Smallwood missed the last two games after hurting his knee against the Chargers.
 
Practice was closed Tuesday and the Eagles are not required to release an injury report until Thursday because of the long week, but a team official confirmed that Johnson practiced — which means he was cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol by an approved neurosurgeon.
 
Johnson was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media, but Smallwood said he did practice without limitations and hopes to play against the Redskins Monday night.
 
"It's been coming along," Smallwood said. "Felt good these past couple days, since really after the Carolina game it started feeling good. I was full-go today, I practiced with the guys. ... I wasn't limited at all. It really didn't bother me much. I felt good today. Hopefully, later on in the week, I'll feel better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday. I think I should be ready."
 
Smallwood rushed for 113 yards with a 3.9 average and caught seven passes for 56 yards in four games before getting hurt early in the Chargers game.
 
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He's that thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back, he's good out of the backfield, he's really good in protection. It brings all those things."
 
Smallwood said he played "on adrenaline" with the injury but said his knee swelled up during the game.
 
Injuries have married Smallwood's career. He missed the last three games last year with a knee injury and missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.
 
"I get frustrated a lot when I'm not in the game, not being out there to help and progress as the year goes on," he said. "So it frustrates me.
 
"But it happens. I've just got to suck it up and not pay attention to it. Just know I can bounce back and just try to get on the field as fast as I can."
 
Smallwood said he expects to be 100 percent Monday night in a huge divisional game against the Redskins at the Linc.
 
"I believe so," he said. "I'm not going to hold back any. I'm not going to think about it or get nervous. I have that confidence in myself. As the week's gone on, I just started feeling better about what I'm able to do."

Also, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who became eligible to practice Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the reserve-non football injury list, said he did not practice. Jones has been out since suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day in March.