Eagles

Eagles' rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas ready to fill in for Ronald Darby vs. Chiefs

Eagles' rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas ready to fill in for Ronald Darby vs. Chiefs

Rasul Douglas, standing at his locker Wednesday, was asked how much he's improved since the start of training camp, and he made a sound kind of like, "Pfffshew."

Then he shook his head and said, "No comparison."

Douglas, the Eagles' rookie third-round cornerback from West Virginia, will likely make his NFL debut Sunday when the Eagles face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

Douglas was inactive for the win over the Redskins, but with Ronald Darby out for at least a month with a dislocated ankle, there's a good chance Douglas will play a significant role this weekend.

"I'm ready," he said. "When I came here, I was all over the place. Wasn’t technique sound. Now I got a lot better. Cory (Undlin, secondary coach) has worked with me, the guys in the room have worked with me, I’ve worked with B-Dawk after practice, worked with a lot of guys after practice, so I’ve just gotten better since I’ve gotten here."

When Darby went down early in the second quarter in Washington, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz moved slot corner Patrick Robinson outside and used a combination of Jaylen Watkins and Corey Graham in the slot.

Schwartz wouldn't reveal his plan for Sunday, but he could use that lineup again, or he could leave Robinson in the slot, where he's grown comfortable since moving inside a few weeks ago and use Douglas outside.

Or Robinson and Jalen Mills could start outside and in nickel, Robinson would move inside and Douglas would move outside.

There are a lot of possibilities and most of them involve some sort of role for Douglas.

"He's an improving player," Schwartz said. "He made a lot of strides from the beginning of training camp until the end of training camp. Like a lot of rookie players, it slowed down at some point for him. Early on he was inundated with all the new things and everything else, and then at the end, it was able to go a little bit slower for him. 

"Very competitive. You saw that in the preseason games. He's long, he can get his hands on the football and he's tough. He'll tackle. I thought he had a very good training camp after a slow start."

You could see Douglas get better with each passing week. But his projected role definitely took a hit when the Eagles went out and acquired Darby in the Jordan Matthews trade on Aug. 11.

He said Brian Dawkins, who is in the Eagles' scouting department, had some valuable advice for him.

"Just picking his brain is great," he said. "Pro Bowl guy, one of the best safeties to ever play the game. 

"He told me always understand the 'why.' 'Why does Schwartz call this defense or why are you playing outside leverage and not inside leverage,' stuff like that."

Douglas also has the luxury of a Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl ring in the meeting room every day in Malcolm Jenkins.

"Malc helped me learn that when the offensive guys are coming out of the huddle, see route concepts or what they might run or who’s coming out to your side and what route does he always run and things like that," he said.

"So when I get into my stance, I have a glimpse of what’s going on or what’s about to happen."

Douglas' career arc has paralleled Mills' in a lot of ways. Mills did play last year in the opener, but only 12 snaps on defense. But he went on to average 43 snaps after that, and by the end of the year, was a pretty solid cornerback.

Mills is now a starter and has been impressed with Douglas's improvement.

“He’s a lot better," he said. "Coming to OTAs, you see him kind of confused, not really sure of himself. Then, in camp, you see him breaking up passes. Even in preseason, he could have had two pick-sixes. You just see him developing and growing. 

"Me, being in that same spot last year, I kind of smile in the background and tell him good job here and there, but he’s grown, for sure. …

"He's 6-2, big aggressive guy, like to make plays on the ball. He did that at West Virginia and he’s doing it here. He’ll be ready if he gets a chance to go out there."

And if he gets beat? Like every young cornerback gets beat at some point?

“Just tell him you’ve got to trust yourself, regardless," Mills said. "Those guys get paid to catch the ball. If they catch the ball, good one. One for the bad guys. 

"But you’ve got to pick yourself up and go play the next play."

Eagles-Giants predictions

Eagles-Giants predictions

The Eagles will have to press on without MVP candidate Carson Wentz and turn to Nick Foles.

Foles will get the chance to keep things going against a lowly Giants team in Week 15.

We’ll get our first glance of the offense without Wentz as the Eagles (11-2) visit the New York Giants (2-11) Sunday afternoon (1 p.m./FOX).

Can Foles get a win on the road and inch the Eagles closer to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?

Our experts provide their predictions:

Reuben Frank (12-1)
Let’s be honest, the Eagles could run Matt McGloin, Matt Barkley or Aaron Murray out there Sunday afternoon and get out of East Rutherford with a win. This is the perfect first opponent for Nick Foles to make his first start of the year. Foles, 15-9 as the Eagles’ starter, has thrown just 69 passes over the last two years and is sure to have some rust as he begins the task of replacing Carson Wentz. Who better to knock the rust off than the lowly Giants? They’re 29th in the NFL in offense, 32nd in defense and playing out the string under a lame-duck interim coach. The Giants are 2-11, they’ve scored 10 offensive TDs in their last eight games and they’ve lost games this year by 10, 10, 14, 16, 17, 20 and 34 points. The Eagles won’t need a 61-yard Jake Elliott field goal this time. If Barkley were starting, I’d pick Eagles 20-7. If Murray were starting, I’d pick Eagles 17-7. If McGloin were starting I’d go 9-7 Birds. But with Foles? This one won’t be close. 

Eagles 30, Giants 7

Dave Zangaro (10-3)
The Giants are a complete mess. So no matter what you think of Foles or the Eagles' chances of winning it all after losing Wentz, they won't drop this game. 

Foles should be more than good enough to beat the NFL's second-worst defense. And there's a real chance for the Eagles to rally around their backup quarterback. I listened to a radio interview with Jeff Hostetler earlier this week and the one thing he said stood out about his magical Super Bowl run in 1990 was the support of his teammates. He said his fellow Giants really rallied around him. That's what Foles needs to happen. 

The Eagles have overcome injuries all season, but losing Wentz is by far the biggest obstacle to overcome. In many ways, he was the reason they were able to overcome all those other blows. Can they make a run without him? Well, a lot of it depends on Foles, but the rest of the team will really need to play mistake-free football because Wentz won't be there to hide those blemishes anymore. 

Oh yeah, back to this game. The Eagles are gonna win. 

Eagles 30, Giants 13

Derrick Gunn (10-3)
What a mess the Giants are right now. GM Jerry Reese fired! Head coach Ben McAdoo fired! Future Hall of Fame QB Eli Manning sits for a game and then resumes his starting role. Their offense can't score (15.3 points per game — which is 31st in the league), and their defense, which was the heart of this team in 2016, is nothing more than a distant memory. The Giants' D is 32nd overall in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, 31st in run defense and 27th in points allowed. 

The Eagles are quickly getting over the loss of Wentz, who was having an MVP season. This should be a walk in the park for the Birds even without Wentz, but you won't hear the players say that. They have a lot of respect for their wounded division foe, and as that old saying goes, "On any given Sunday." If Dallas was able to put up 30 points on the G-men, then surely the Birds can do that. You should be able to go holiday shopping by halftime.

Eagles 34, Giants 13

Ray Didinger (11-2)
The Eagles face a steeper challenge now with Wentz gone. Yes, Foles can move the offense, but he can't do all the things Wentz can do. It will be up to the coaches to draw up a game plan that is a fit for Foles. It will start with a heavy dose of the run, which is fine since the Giants are allowing 130 yards per game on the ground (31st in the league).

Jay Ajayi is becoming a bigger part of the offense — he had 15 carries for 78 yards against the Rams — so look for him to get a lot of work Sunday. For Foles to be effective, the offensive line has to play better than it did the last two weeks. The best way to protect Foles is to control the ball on the ground and let him work the passing game off play action. It's a simple formula, really.

At 2-11, the Giants are playing out the string under interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo. I expect the Eagles defense to come out inspired and swarm all over Eli Manning and the undermanned New York offense. The Eagles may not score their customary 30-plus points but they will score enough to get the win and secure that playoff bye.

Eagles 24, Giants 13

Andrew Kulp (11-2)
Not sure how Foles will fare in his first start, but he's probably better than soon-to-be 37-year-old Eli Manning at this point. That and the Giants are trash.

Eagles 27, Giants 20

Corey Seidman (8-4)
This week’s prediction isn’t as easy it should’ve been, for obvious reasons. 

Gotta remember, however, that the Giants are a depleted team down their top two receivers and best cornerback. I think Nick Foles does enough to win and the Eagles play ball control. The defense should force many a three-and-out against Eli Manning, who gets the ball out rapidly but often for gains of three yards. 

Eagles 20, Giants 9

Nick Foles' impressive mark as Eagles starter at home

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AP Images

Nick Foles' impressive mark as Eagles starter at home

Eagles Milestone Watch just isn't quite as much fun without Carson Wentz, is it?

But you know what? There are still some pretty cool statistical plateaus to look for Sunday when the Eagles face the Giants at MetLife Stadium and through the rest of the season.

Let's take a look!

• Nick Foles has won eight straight starts at home, which is two shy of the longest home winning streak by an Eagles quarterback since 1950. Donovan McNabb won 10 starts over the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Randall Cunningham won nine straight from 1991 through 1993 and Foles (2013-14) and Carson Wentz (2016-17) won eight straight. Rodney Peete (1995-96) and Bobby Thomason (1953-54) had seven-game home-winning streaks.

• Even though he's played only five games in an Eagles uniform, Jay Ajayi has already had three games with both 75 or more rushing yards and a yards-per-carry average of at least 5.0. With one more game with 75 yards and a 5.0 average, Ajayi would join Brian Westbrook, Wilbert Montgomery and LeSean McCoy as only the fourth running back in Eagles history with four such games in a season.

• The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in eight of their first 13 games. One more 30-point game ties the franchise record of nine set in 2014.

• The Eagles are averaging 176 rushing yards per game and allowing 88 rushing yards. They're on pace to become only the third team in NFL history to gain 2,250 rushing yards while allowing fewer than 1,150 rushing yards. The others are the 1941 Bears and 1969 Cowboys.

• Finally, this: Brent Celek, who could be approaching his final three games with the Eagles, has 4,973 career receiving yards, all in an Eagles uniform. With 27 more yards, he will become the eighth player in Eagles history with 5,000 receiving yards and only the 12th tight end in NFL history with at least 5,000 receiving yards all with the same team. The only other players with at least 5,000 yards all in an Eagles uniform are Pete Retzlaff (7,412), Mike Quick (6,464), Hall of Famer Pete Pihos (5,619) and Bobby Walston (5,363).