Rasul Douglas

Eagles Rookie Report: Rookies don't make big plays but make impact

ap-mack-hollins-eagles-bears.jpg
AP Images

Eagles Rookie Report: Rookies don't make big plays but make impact

The Eagles took care of business Sunday by beating the lowly Bears, 31-3, at the Linc (see breakdown).

In recent weeks, first-round pick Derek Barnett and undrafted running back Corey Clement have dominated this space. This week, the rookies weren't as impactful in the Eagles' convincing win.

Here are a few of the highlights from this week's rookie report.

2nd quarter, 11:04, 3rd-and-12 at CHI 20 - Eagles 7, Bears 0
Mack Hollins is lined up in the slot on this play against corner Prince Amukamara. Amukamara gets a hold of Hollins off the line, but the rookie receiver gets a nice release off the line and forces the veteran corner to grab hold on the post route. Carson Wentz overthrows this ball as a result of the hold, but the Eagles do get the call. This is why the Eagles like Hollins. He's a matchup nightmare with the size to beat small corners and the speed and quick feet to beat longer corners.

2nd quarter, 0:38, 3rd-and-5 at CHI 26 - Eagles 17, Bears 0
This wasn't pretty by Clement but it got the job done. Wentz is lined up in the shotgun with Clement to his left. A blitzer comes off the edge from the left clean, with only Clement standing in the way of Wentz. Clement gets pushed back but gets enough of the blitzer to allow Wentz to float the ball out to Torrey Smith. The ball falls incomplete, but the Eagles get a first down because of another hold against Amukamara on Smith (see Roob's observations).

2nd quarter, 0:27, 2nd-and-10 at CHI 21 - Eagles 17, Bears 0
Nothing fancy on this play. Wentz again is lined up in the shotgun with Clement lined up to his right. It's a three-receiver set with Zach Ertz as the only tight end on the field. Clearly the Bears are thinking pass with this formation and just 27 seconds left in the half. Instead, it's a straight handoff to Clement. The formation allows the Eagles to get 1-on-1 blocks all around, including center Jason Kelce getting to the second level to block a linebacker. Clement hits the hole with a good burst and nearly picks up a first down.

3rd quarter, 7:09, 1st-and-10 at PHI 37 - Eagles 24, Bears 3
This is excellent play design from Doug Pederson. Nelson Agholor is lined up to the right in the slot. He motions left to the other slot, then swings back for the fake on the jet sweep. All that motion affects the defense. Clement does an excellent job staying patient then runs a little bubble to the left. All Wentz has to do is float the ball over the defensive end's head. Clement secures the catch and finishes off the play, plowing into two Bears' defenders for the first down.

4th quarter, 2:22, 1st-and-10  at PHI 32 - Eagles 31, Bears 3
Cornerback Rasul Douglas has been relegated to backup duty since the return of Ronald Darby last week. On this play in garbage time, Douglas flashed what made the rookie a solid stand-in during the time Darby missed. Marcus Wheaton runs a 10-yard in. Douglas, playing off coverage, as usual, reads quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's eyes and makes a break on the football. Trubisky's throw is behind Wheaton, which allows Douglas to pick it off. Unfortunately, when Douglas rolls over, he bobbles the ball and it hits the ground. Upon review, it's overturned to an incompletion. But the choreographed Electric Slide/Remember the Titans tribute was excellent.

Analysis
Barnett certainly didn't play poorly. The rookie defensive end didn't have any "splash" plays but was disciplined and did have a couple nice rushes. But as we've pointed out all season, just because he's not getting sacks, doesn't mean Barnett isn't making an impact (see report card).

Clement continues to get reps and be steady in production. After rookie camp, running backs coach Duce Staley told Clement to lose weight, work on his pass catching and — most importantly — work on his pass protection. It's to a point now where Clement is easily the team's best back on third down. This is from a guy that went undrafted in large part because he wasn't effective in the passing game in Wisconsin. He finished with four carries for 27 yards and one catch for 12 yards.

It's fair to wonder if Hollins should see more reps over Smith. While Hollins has perhaps earned it, the formula has been working for Pederson at receiver. Smith has been catching the ball more consistently and provides a veteran presence. Hollins will get his reps and he has to keep capitalize. Hollins finished with two catches for 12 yards.

What Ronald Darby's return means for rest of Eagles' secondary

What Ronald Darby's return means for rest of Eagles' secondary

There are going to be a lot of moving pieces in the Eagles' secondary very soon.

Most likely this weekend.

Ronald Darby will move from a long-term injury layoff back into the starting lineup at left cornerback. Jalen Mills will move from left corner — where he's played very well in Darby's eight-game absence — back over to right cornerback. And Rasul Douglas will move from right corner to a lesser role. This from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who warned that he's still not positive Darby will be ready to return this weekend.

Darby, who the Eagles acquired from the Bills a month before opening day, hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury in the opener in Washington.

Although he's been practicing for a few weeks, Schwartz said his status for the Eagles-Cowboys game Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, won't be determined until the defensive coaches see him practice this week.

"There's really nothing set in stone right now because we don't 100 percent know if he's going to be back," Schwartz said.

"He's trending the right way, he was back on the practice field (Monday). He was back on the practice field last week doing some scout team stuff. So that will sort of develop as we go."

And when Darby does return, he'll go back to left corner, where he played in Buffalo and where he opened the season.

"Most likely, most likely," Schwartz said. "He's played the left a long time. Those guys can all play both positions. They can all play both sides. I think that's important.

"Again, this is further on down the line, but if we get in positions where we want to match a receiver, he has the ability to do that. Last week, on the practice field, he took turns at both sides, and I think that's just for overall development.

"The one thing is, if there's two wide receivers and the corners have to match, you're going over to the right side anyway, so both guys have to be able to play both positions. But that's the position we sort of settled on to start the season — the left corner, and I would anticipate when he's healthy and ready to go that he would go back into that spot."

Douglas, the third-round pick from West Virginia, is tied for second among NFL rookies with two interceptions after being inactive in the opener.

Schwartz said the 22-year-old Douglas will still have some sort of role even when Darby does return.

"We've gotten contributions from a lot of different guys this year," he said Tuesday. "I would expect that to stay the same.

"The way those DBs work, it's just a matter of time before they're out there. Everybody has a role somewhere along the line, and we'll try to keep that in place and keep a lot of people involved. We've done that by necessity and also by plan so far this year."

Patrick Robinson will remain in the slot, where he's been all year, other than the second half of the 49ers game, which he missed with a concussion.

His reps were taken that day by Dexter McDougle, who was released last week, coinciding with Darby's anticipated return.

Rasul Douglas likely to hit Eagles' bench after Ronald Darby's return

Rasul Douglas likely to hit Eagles' bench after Ronald Darby's return

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."