Safety help could be coming from someone who’s not a safety.
Veteran safety Corey Graham, who’ll move into the Eagles’ starting lineup in place of injured Rodney McLeod, identified second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas as a candidate for the third safety spot or sixth D-back spot that’s now open.
Douglas, a third-round pick last year, has played only six snaps on defense this year, although on one of them he made a crucial interception in the red zone in the opening-day win over the Falcons.
But he definitely has a hybrid skill set. He’s tough, physical, a sure tackler, stands 6-foot-2. With the depth the Eagles have at corner, at some point, he’ll be likely a safety.
Whether that’s as early as Sunday in Nashville remains to be seen. But the Eagles’ options are limited when it comes to their third safety or their safety in Big Dime, which is three corners and three safeties.
The Eagles acquired safety Deiondre’ Hall earlier this month, but he was suspended the first week of the regular season and hasn’t played a snap on defense the last two games.
Tre Sullivan played in the season opener, was released the next day, then re-signed to the practice squad the following week. He’s likely to get a promotion to the 53 when McLeod officially goes on IR.
McLeod, a solid starter here since 2016, is out for the year after tearing his MCL in the win over the Colts Sunday.
Graham rejoined the Eagles on Aug. 5 after serving as the third safety last year. He’s in his 12th NFL season and at 33, he’s the fourth-oldest safety in the NFL. He’s played in 174 games, second-most on the roster behind Jason Peters (179).
“Everybody’s ready to roll,” Graham said. “Next guy up, pretty much doesn’t matter who it is. Everybody knows their job and knows what they’re supposed to do. So it’s not really a big drop-off because of that. When you have guys that are ready to roll, you’ll be all right.
“We’re confident in all our guys. So no matter who it is — me, Rasul, Deiondre’ — it doesn’t make a difference. Everybody knows what they’re doing.”
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves cornerbacks with safety skills and safeties with cornerback skills, and this is why. He wants interchangeable parts who can cover and tackle, and that’s really what the third safety is.
Depending on what sub-package the Eagles are in, Graham said rookie Avonte Maddox could also be in the mix.
“These are smart guys, to be honest with you,” Graham said. “They’re smart. They’re picking it up. The way we do it in our defensive backs room, we learn all the positions from the beginning anyway, so either one of those guys can get in and play it.
“You never know. It could be Hall, could be anyone. Tre could get moved up. I don’t know. But when we find out we’ll adjust and we’ll be ready to roll."
As for Graham, he averaged 26 snaps per game last year during the regular season, a figure that rose to 41 in the playoffs.
Ultimately, every defensive back who’s active Sunday for the Eagles’ game against the Titans will probably have a role in some package.
“It won’t be one guy,” Graham said after practice Thursday. “It won’t be one guy who does it. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to account for it if Rod is not here, but we’ll figure it out.
“I’m pretty sure my job isn’t going to change dramatically. In some packages, I’ll still be doing the same thing. It’s just that someone else is going to have to come in and help out.”