With Sidney Jones out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, the Eagles beat the Giants last weekend with cornerback Rasul Douglas making his NFL debut at safety and Avonte Maddox moving from safety down into the slot.
It was their most complete defensive game of the year.
"He performed well," Malcolm Jenkins said of Douglas after the game. "He didn't have any mental errors. That's not easy at all."
But on Sunday in the Carolina game, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz used a different plan.
He started Dexter McDougle in the slot — just five days after the Eagles signed him off the street — and moved Maddox back out to safety, his regular position now that he's replaced veteran Corey Graham.
And Douglas sat.
Douglas didn't play a snap on defense, and McDougle — who hadn't been on an NFL roster since the summer — looked gassed trying to make tackles in the fourth quarter.
McDougle certainly wasn't the only person responsible for the Eagles' historic collapse. Everybody who played was.
But he didn't help.
"(McDougle) went in, executed coverages well, got his guy covered," Schwartz said. "I'd just like to see him be able to make a couple of those tackles."
So let's think about this.
You have a guy who has never started an NFL game.
Who's been on the street for two months.
Who hasn't played one snap in a regular-season game in 11 months.
And you're asking him to play a career-high 48 snaps in a pivotal game against a running quarterback who was an MVP just a few years ago?
Why not use Douglas until McDougle is acclimated to the speed of the game? Till he's got a couple weeks of practice under his belt?
"Well, (Rasul is) really not a safety," Schwartz said. "He was a safety in that (Giants) game because that was our emergency situation, and that's the way we stacked it. That wasn't ideal, either. In-game, you'd rather just plug one player into a position and keep everybody else the same but we didn't have any other nickels, so Avonte needed to go down there and Rasul went in at safety. With a little bit of time we thought it was best just to plug-and-play Dexter, who had been with us in the past and played a little bit of football for us."
McDougle was with the Eagles the first half of last year and knows the defense, but that wasn't the problem.
He was rusty. His tackling was poor, especially during the Panthers' 21-point fourth quarter.
"I'd like to see his tackling a little bit cleaner," Schwartz said. "I think it's probably a little bit to be accepted, a little bit of the cost of doing business when you get a guy that hasn't played in the last month."
The cost of business of using a guy who hasn't played football in two months.
McDougle hadn't played a snap in any sort of game since Aug. 30, in the Lions' 35-17 preseason loss to the Browns. He was released the next day and was out of football from Aug. 31 until Oct. 16, when the Eagles signed him.
He practiced Wednesday through Friday and then played 48 snaps Sunday.
Was Douglas that bad at safety?
I understand that Schwartz wanted Maddox back at safety, but doesn't it make more sense to use a guy who's been with the team all along and did a decent job as an emergency safety last week than a guy who was home on his couch six days earlier?
Schwartz even acknowledged that he expected McDougle to be rusty.
"A little bit like those first preseason games, you're always worried the most about tackling," Schwartz said. "I think that's what we saw with Dex."
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