As the Eagles limped their way to a 4-5 record with a 27-20 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night, Ronald Darby, quite literally, limped his way out of the stadium.
Darby tore his right ACL and his season is over. Just like that, a decimated secondary took another devastating blow. The Eagles are going to miss Darby down the stretch as they try to claw their way back into the playoff picture. Without him, Rasul Douglas will once again take over as a starter.
We’re about to learn a lot about the former third-round draft pick over the next seven games.
Douglas has just one thing he wants to prove.
“That I’m a ballplayer,” he said. “That’s really it. I don’t really care about anything else.”
That mission didn’t get off to a great start Sunday night. With Jalen Mills’ foot injury, Douglas started the Cowboys game along with Darby and he didn’t play very well. That might be an understatement.
Douglas assessed his play as “OK” and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Douglas played like “a 27-20 loss,” just like everyone else who was on the field as the Eagles lost their third straight home game.
“He’s got a lot of pride, he’s got a lot of confidence,” Schwartz said. “He’ll bounce back from it.”
But perhaps Douglas showed us why the Eagles haven’t seemed to be in much of a hurry to get him on the field this season. For weeks, there had been a growing contingent of Eagles fans calling for Douglas to get more playing time. That’s about to happen for these last seven games and, if nothing else, we should get a sense of Douglas’ ability and his ceiling.
A third-round pick out of West Virginia last year, Douglas actually played a big role early in the 2017 season but was phased out once Darby returned from an ankle injury he suffered in the opener. Douglas wasn’t great last season, but he at least showed some promise, intercepting two passes after starting just five games. This year, he had a pick in the season opener this year despite playing just a couple snaps but hadn’t had a big role since then … until now.
While Douglas feels for Darby, the injury will give him the opportunity he has been waiting for all season. Just last week, before his first start of the season, he called the season “low-key frustrating.” That didn’t seem to matter as much after another loss.
“I just want to win,” Douglas said Tuesday. “I honestly don’t care about anything else. Like, if I played 10 snaps per game and we win, I’m happy. I can go home happy knowing I helped in practice or scout team or did my job when I got in for those 10 plays. I think that’s the only thing that matters to anybody in this locker room.”
There will be plenty of challenges for Douglas the rest of the way. He’ll face Drew Brees and Michael Thomas this week. Then there’s Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper again.
“Perfect opportunity,” Douglas said.
If the Eagles are going to make the playoffs, they’re going to do it with a secondary that has been banged up. Even when Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills return, the Eagles are already down Darby and Rodney McLeod for the season. They’re counting on backups like Douglas, among others, to perform.
I asked Douglas how much pride is involved when backups are thrust into action.
“You ain’t got no choice,” Douglas said. “You got everybody counting on you. You gotta come through for everyone. It’s like, you battle with us through OTAs and camp, you know what guys put in it and you don’t want to let them down. When you let your teammates down, it’s worse than letting yourself down.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.