Cornerback Rasul Douglas knows the feeling of hopping off the bench when his number is called and getting thrown into the fire. It’s a stressful situation as most quarterbacks target the vulnerable corner.
But Douglas thrives under that pressure. When he replaced Ronald Darby for two plays against the Falcons in Week 1, Douglas matched up against Julio Jones on third down in the red zone. Sure enough, Ryan targeted Jones and Douglas made a game-changing fourth-quarter interception in front of the goal line.
“When you're fresh off the bench for three quarters, and you get in, you know the ball is coming at you,” Douglas said. “I kind of like it because I know the ball is coming for me and I'm just saying for these one or two snaps, I need to be locked in all over my guy.”
Douglas and other defensive backs have had to deal with shifts and changes constantly this season as injuries have shuffled the secondary. With the possible absences of outside cornerback Jalen Mills and nickel cornerback Sidney Jones for this Sunday’s game against Dallas, several players will be asked to step up and move around.
It’s a situation that safety Malcolm Jenkins knows the Eagles are prepared for.
“I'm having to take less reps at practice to make sure that these guys are prepared because we've had so many injuries that we don't want to be in a position where something happens and he has to play that role and he's never had to do it,” Jenkins said. “Every week, we plug guys in and out and find a way to get it done. This week won't be any different.”
The situations could make Douglas have to start at outside corner in place of Mills. Douglas said that won’t be a problem because he practices and always prepares in the meeting room like a starter. During the game, he stands on the sideline and is in tune with Mills and Darby.
“You have to,” Douglas said. “Because you never know. Cramps happen. The wind gets knocked out of people. Anything can happen, and they might just need a play or two, but for those two plays, you know they're coming at you.”
Rookie Avonte Maddox competed for the nickel cornerback position in Training Camp but moved to safety when Rodney McLeod was lost for the season. He said he will play wherever the coaches need him on Sunday and he’s spent extra time after practice working on his footwork and fundamentals that apply to any position.
Maddox describes himself as a defensive back, not a safety or a corner. But while it’s possible he could slide back to the nickel spot, he has settled in and played well as a starting safety. In the Eagles’ last game against Jacksonville, he played every snap and had six tackles and forced a crucial fumble.
“I’m definitely more confident. I feel good back there,” Maddox said. “Definitely dealing with Malcolm helps, in practice he makes it hard on me. He puts me in the worst situations where I'm in the box so when I come into the game, I won't have any doubt.”
Tuesday, the Eagles claimed cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers from the Lions. In Chicago last season, LeBlanc played some snaps at nickel corner and said he’s prepared to play anywhere.
Despite having just a few practices with his new team before Sunday’s crucial game, LeBlanc may play significant minutes against the Cowboys. It’s something he said is just part of the business and will just require some cramming.
“I'm just going to pound the playbook as fast as I can, get familiar with the plays. That's what we have practice for," LeBlanc said. "So, I'll work at it, continue to work at it day and night, just got to keep pounding it into my head. If I'm out there, I'll try to do it to the best of my ability.”
It’s been next man up for the Eagles’ secondary all season. In a massive game on Sunday night, the defensive backs will have to handle a challenge from playmaking wide receivers Amari Cooper and Allen Hurns as well as the threat of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
But despite the injuries, the secondary is unphased and ready for the challenge.
“We're always cross-training guys for different spots so you can practice all week in one place, if one guy gets injured, we reshuffle the whole deck,” Jenkins said. “They've done a good job at keeping us in the right spots. We've handled it thus far pretty well and we'll continue to do that.”
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