Rasul Douglas

Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles' secondary

Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles' secondary

The Eagles overcame a ton of injuries during the 2017 season on their way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but the 2018 season was a lot different. 

For a while, all their injuries happened to the same position group. 

By the time the season ended in New Orleans on Sunday, the Eagles had incredibly used 15 defensive backs on defense during the season. No team in the NFL used more and the NFL average was 11.8. 

Of the five starting defensive backs this season, only Malcolm Jenkins remained by season’s end. Three of the five were on IR. 

So here’s a look at all 15 defensive backs the Eagles used this season with their snaps in the regular season and in the playoffs:

Malcolm Jenkins: 1039/141
Jenkins was clearly the glue this season. It’s scary to think about where this team would have been without his play and leadership. He played every single defensive snap in the regular season and playoffs. He was very deservingly named to his third-career Pro Bowl for his efforts this season. He’s under contract for two more seasons. 

Corey Graham: 656/141
Graham was close to retiring before this season, but ended up playing the second most snaps of everyone in this secondary. That was not ideal and Jim Schwartz admitted as much. But after Graham’s fatal error on 4th-and-15 in Nashville, he actually played better. Safe money is on the 33-year-old retiring this offseason. 

Rasul Douglas: 543/118
By the end of the season, Douglas had done enough to warrant serious consideration to be a starting cornerback next season. Sure, he had a shaky start to his season, but ended up leading the team with three interceptions and was a really good tackler. He dealt with some minor injuries too, but played in every game. The defense struggled when he was forced to leave in the divisional round. 

Ronald Darby: 542/0
One of the initial starters, Darby tore his ACL in Week 10 against the Cowboys. The Eagles have an interesting decision to make on Darby. He’s still just 25 and is a free agent, but is also coming off a serious injury. 

Avonte Maddox: 540/135
Maybe Maddox started to get picked on some late in the season, but he had a tremendous rookie season, especially for a fourth-round pick. He played in 13 games as a nickel corner, safety and outside corner. The Eagles missed him when Maddox was out for three games with a knee injury. It’s likely Maddox will be a big part of the secondary in Year 2; we just don’t know where yet. 

Jalen Mills: 457/0
Another starter when the 2018 season began, Mills hurt his foot in London against the Jaguars and was never able to return. In fact, it seemed like his foot kept getting worse and worse. Mills is entering Year 4 in 2019 and is still a Jim Schwartz favorite, so don’t count on him going to the bench. 

Cre’Von LeBlanc: 351/108
Strap was one of the greatest surprises of the 2018 season and the Eagles might have found a hidden gem. They claimed him off waivers on Nov. 5 and he eventually become the Eagles’ nickel corner. He played so well that he ought to be the frontrunner to win that job next season. His INT in the Saints playoff game was incredible. 

Sidney Jones: 322/0 
A really disappointing season for the former second-round pick. After missing most of his rookie season as he recovered from an Achilles tear, he played in just nine games this season because of hamstring injuries. The lasting image of his 2018 season will be from the first Saints game, when Drew Brees kept picking on the injured corner. But it’s too early to call him a bust. Jones is still just 22 and will be in the mix for a job next spring and summer. 

Tre Sullivan: 219/87
Sullivan ended up being another pleasant surprise. He was on the initial roster, but then spent a month on the practice squad before rejoining the 53. By the end of the season, the Eagles felt comfortable enough to use him frequently at safety while Jenkins slid into the box. Big strides from Sullivan this season. 

Rodney McLeod: 162/0
The Eagles lost McLeod to an ACL injury in the third game of the season and he was missed the rest of the year, but stayed as involved as he could. The Eagles might ask him to restructure his contract, but they could definitely use him back next season. 

De’Vante Bausby: 147/0
There was a time in the spring where Bausby was getting first-team nickel reps, but he didn’t make the Eagles’ initial roster and didn’t last long on the practice squad the first time. Eventually in November, the Eagles added him to the practice squad and called him up on Nov. 17. But he was waived on Dec. 24 after a few subpar performances. He started against the Giants along with Chandon Sullivan. That really happened. 

Dexter McDougle: 106/0
Remember this guy? He was actually on the team this season and was briefly the Eagles’ starting nickel corner. He was on the roster for just a month, though, and was released to make room for LeBlanc. McDougle’s performance in London was awful and he was released before the next game. 

Chandon Sullivan: 87/0
Thanks to other injuries, Sullivan was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 25 and was on the roster until he was waived on Dec. 24. In those two months, he played in five games and had one start. Even Sullivan suffered an injury this season. 

Deiondre’ Hall: 6/0
The Eagles traded a seventh-round pick for Hall, who was primarily a special teams player for the Eagles. It was probably a little telling that the Eagles refused to play Hall at safety even when they had a need for healthy defensive backs. He seemed to be a pretty important teams player though. 

Josh Hawkins: 0/21  
Hawkins was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 11 and was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 24. His only playing time came in the divisional round game, when he was thrust into action against the Saints and Brees immediately threw to his side for a touchdown. Tough spot for the young defensive back. But that’s how things went all season. 

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Eagles injury update: Fletcher Cox (foot), Rasul Douglas (ankle) return vs. Saints

Eagles injury update: Fletcher Cox (foot), Rasul Douglas (ankle) return vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS — The injuries are piling up in the Superdome.

Fletcher Cox just gingerly walked off the field after getting hurt as the Saints converted on fourth down with a fake punt. He returned in the final minute of the second quarter.

And just a couple plays later, Michael Bennett got hurt. He was able to walk to the sideline on his own power and returned to the field after missing just two plays. 

Meanwhile, Rasul Douglas returned in the second half after suffering an ankle injury.

This all happened after the Eagles already lost Brandon Brooks, who was carted off in the first quarter.

The Eagles are winning, but they’ve already lost a bunch of good players in the process and there’s a long way to go.

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Gunn-on-One: Rasul Douglas has grown up in a hurry

Gunn-on-One: Rasul Douglas has grown up in a hurry

Rasul Douglas is one of the Eagles' young secondary players who's had to grow up in a hurry and entering Sunday in New Orleans, Douglas' maturity has shown.

Douglas is this week's subject of Gunn-on_one.

Gunn: You didn't get much playing time the first time against the Saints. This time, you're starting. How cool is that?

Douglas: It's cool. Sitting behind two guys — Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, two good cornerbacks — I just knew I had to wait my time. I just had to stay in my playbook and stay focused, knowing the defense and at any minute I could be called in to play. So at the beginning of the year, I was going in some plays and then coming out. Now, it's like the job is yours so we need you to be Rasul Douglas every play.

Gunn: How has this secondary been able to come together so well the last several weeks, especially when you have three young guys on the backend yourself, Avonte Maddox and Cre'Von LeBlanc?

Douglas: We just got together and said, 'We're not going to be the reason why these older kids don't go as far as they should go. It's not going to be on us. We gotta grow up one day and it's the perfect time. Now, we got the chance to go out there and play and grow up.'

Gunn: Drew Brees has all these records, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. How difficult will it be to defend against that man, where his completion percentage this season in that building is over 76 percent?

Douglas: Gotta give him different looks. We can't give him the same looks. He's gonna go back to his iPad, look at it and if you give it to him again, he'll throw for a 1,000 yards in a game. Let the blitz get to him. Make him move his feet and do stuff he don't want to do.

Douglas has a lot more to say and you can hear it on Eagles Pregame Live on NBC Sports Philadelphia beginning Sunday at 3 p.m. or stream it on the My Teams App.

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