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."

5 reasons Eagles are keeping expensive Jason Peters

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5 reasons Eagles are keeping expensive Jason Peters

When the offseason began, there was definitely a sense of unknown regarding Jason Peters.

The Eagles faced an offseason that presented tremendous salary cap challenges, Peters had just turned 36, carried a $10.7 salary cap hit in 2018 and was coming off another injury.

And his replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, was much cheaper and had played very well down the stretch and during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.

It wouldn’t have been a shock to anybody if the Eagles moved on from Peters.

Yet here we are almost two months later, and Peters remains an Eagle and at this point will almost certainly be an Eagle in 2018.

Why is Peters still here? Let’s consider some of the reasons:

1. Affect in the locker room
Peters is so respected and even beloved in the locker room. It’s no coincidence photos showed him holding the Lombardi Trophy as he slept on the flight back from Minneapolis after the Super Bowl.  

The Eagles have already lost several veterans from the Super Bowl team. LeGarrette Blount and Brent Celek were tremendous leaders, and Donnie Jones, Trey Burton, Torrey Smith, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen were all important parts.

The response in the locker room if Peters’ name was added to the list would have been monumental. There wouldn’t be a revolt, but there would be a lot of unhappy Eagles.

2. He’s really not that expensive
Peters isn’t a bargain, but he’s not that expensive. His $10.667 million cap figure is 12th highest in the league among offensive tackles, and his $6.75 million 2018 base salary is 14th highest in the league among tackles.

The Eagles would save $3,916,666 under the cap if they released him and carry $10,666,666 in dead money in 2018. That’s a significant cap saving, but not an astronomical one.

3. Reggie and Dawk
Jeff Lurie bought the Eagles just two years after Norman Braman let Reggie White leave, and Lurie has regretted the way Brian Dawkins was allowed to leave after the 2008 season.

Lurie and Peters have a strong relationship, and there is no way Lurie wants to be the owner of a franchise that cut ties with White, Dawkins and Peters, three Hall of Famers.

4. Quick healer
Peters is coming off a serious knee injury. He tore his ACL and MCL in late October vs. the Redskins.

But nobody can doubt Peters’ work ethic when it comes to rehabbing. This is a guy who suffered two torn Achilles injuries in 2012 — one that March and a second in May — leading some to speculate that his career was over.

But he was 100 percent by opening day and played that entire 2013 season, making the Pro Bowl and being named first-team All-Pro.

5. What do we really know about Big V?
Vaitai played better and better and was very good in the postseason, but he’s still a 24-year-old former fifth-round pick with 16 career starts — only nine at left tackle.

Vaitai has been good, but have we seen enough of him to feel confident that he can replace a legend?

Peters is not like other human beings who inhabit the planet Earth. Even at 35 years old, he was as dominating as ever before he got hurt, and he’s made the Pro Bowl nine straight years he’s been healthy.

He’s shown no sign of slowing down, and the Eagles clearly don’t expect him to anytime soon.

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

The Eagles have found their replacement for Torrey Smith. 

Heck, they found an upgrade. 

On Thursday, the Birds agreed to terms with veteran speedy receiver Mike Wallace on a one-year deal. The deal is worth $2.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. 

This signing makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, especially if they weren’t ready to hand Mack Hollins the starting spot Smith left. Hollins can now split time with Wallace. Even if the Eagles didn’t trade Smith, they weren’t going to keep him at his price tag, so adding Wallace gives the Eagles a veteran with speed at a cheaper cost. 

Wallace, 31, is coming off a season in which he caught 52 passes for 748 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. For comparison, in 2017, Smith caught 36 passes for 430 yards (11.9) and two touchdowns. And Smith dropped seven passes, while Wallace dropped just three, according to ProFootballFocus. In fact, Wallace's numbers weren't far off from Alshon Jeffery's stats last year (57 receptions, 789 yards, 9 touchdowns). 

While Wallace isn’t coming off his best season in 2017, he went over 1,000 yards in 2016 and has averaged 15.0 yards per reception during his nine-year NFL career. The Eagles hope he'll be the deep threat they thought they were getting in Smith. 

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Wallace is second in the league in 40-yard receptions and in 50-yard receptions. He has 43 receptions of 40-plus yards (behind DeSean Jackson's 56) and 26 receptions of 50-plus yards (behind Jackson's 36). 

If that's not recent enough for you, the Eagles had seven pass plays of 50-plus yards in 2017; Wallace had three on his own. He can still stretch the field. 

The Eagles can now start Alshon Jeffery and Wallace on the outside, which will allow them to keep Nelson Agholor in the slot, where he was great last season. Then they’ll still have Hollins and Shelton Gibson (both draft picks from 2017) off the bench. Not bad. 

Wallace will turn 32 before the season starts, so the Eagles have added another veteran player, something they’ve done plenty this season. They already added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. It’s pretty clear the Eagles see the need to maximize their window of opportunity and getting players to join them is probably easier coming off a Super Bowl win. 

Signing veterans on one-year deals certainly worked well for the Eagles last season and if this one works out too, they will have found a good fit for the 2018 season.