Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Rasul Douglas was walking out of the visiting locker room at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday and Mychal Kendricks jumped up from his locker and started walking with the 22-year-old rookie.

"You were great out there, man," the sixth-year linebacker said . "Like, dude. You played really, really well. You were ballin' out there."

Douglas looked stone-faced but Kendricks kept it up.

"I LIKE the way you played. You got after it, bro. Liked it. Liked it, man."

Finally Douglas cracked a huge smile. Yeah, the Eagles lost, but Douglas enjoyed an auspicious NFL debut Sunday when forced into action after Jaylen Watkins left the Eagles-Chiefs game with a hamstring injury.

He played 39 of 53 defensive snaps, and according to Pro Football Focus graded out as the ninth-highest cornerback in the league on Sunday.

“I was more anxious than nervous. Just some butterflies," Douglas said. "After the first couple series, I was like, 'Man, this is where I’m supposed to be.'"

Matched up much of the afternoon with explosive Tyreek Hill, he allowed four catches but for only 22 yards with only five yards after the catch, according to PFF. 

He was physical and tackled very well and didn't seem to have any significant breakdowns. Hill, who had a 7-for-133 line in the opener vs. the Patriots, finished Sunday with four catches for 43 yards.

"I felt like I played OK," Douglas said. "It’s never as good as you think, it’s never as bad as you think. Just have to watch film and get better."

The Eagles played most of the game Sunday down three defensive backs, with Ronald Darby out indefinitely with an ankle injury and Watkins and safety Rodney McLeod both out for at least the day with hamstrings.

But the patchwork secondary, with Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham at safety and Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Douglas at corner, played tough. 

Considering it was his first career game, Douglas's performance was impressive.

"Rasul stepped in and I thought he did a good job," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He tackled well and made no mental mistakes and that’s a tough duty against what they do offensively, from read option to reverses to shovel passes to jet sweeps to all the different stuff, and it’s a lot of moving parts, and I was proud of him for that part of it."

The Eagles allowed only two pass plays over 20 yards, but both were damaging — Alex Smith's 44-yarder to tight end Travis Kelce on the opening drive to set up a field goal (that was before Douglas entered the game) and Smith's 35-yarder to Chris Conley, who beat Mills, on the Chiefs' final touchdown drive.

Considering the state of the Eagles' secondary, it was a welcome performance.

"That’s the game," Jenkins said. "We understand that injuries happen, that’s why (other) guys prepare. 

"Honestly, we didn’t feel like we missed a step. Obviously, to lose a Rodney McLeod is tough, same thing with Jaylen Watkins, he’s our guy we can move around, but Rasul Douglas came in and played well, Corey Graham came in and gave us consistent snaps, he’s a veteran. So I don’t think we missed a beat on the back end."

Douglas was credited with four solo tackles, sharing the team lead with Vinny Curry and Jenkins, and he was credited with one pass breakup.

His tackling was exceptional. Five yards after the catch on four receptions means an average of 45 inches of YAC per reception.

"The way we played that game plan, we played off an awful lot against their receivers," Schwartz said. "It seemed every time we did get close to them we had a ball go over our heads, so we had a very concerted effort to keep them in front. That only works if you make tackles and I thought that Rasul, Jalen Mills and Jaylen Watkins when he was in the game, those guys did a good job of getting things tackled. 

"You can go and play 2nd-and-3, it’s hard when it’s a 40-yard chunk or a 50-yard chunk and it’s either a touchdown or the ball’s in the red zone. It only works if you’re making those tackles. 

"I’d say this: Rasul played with good anticipation. He didn’t cheat, he didn’t run down and guess. He played good technique and I was happy to see that.”

What will Douglas's role be moving forward? Tough to say. We don't know if McLeod and/or Watkins will be back for the Giants in the Eagles' home opener Sunday. And then there's Sidney Jones looming in the future as well, and the return of Darby later this fall.

But whatever the future holds, it was clearly an encouraging debut for the 6-2 rookie from West Virginia.

"Oh, it’s big," he said. "Definitely to see how (the NFL game) is. Especially going against one of the fastest players in football right now. It was definitely big for me."  

Why on Earth did Doug Pederson quit running? Roob can't figure it out

Why on Earth did Doug Pederson quit running? Roob can't figure it out

The most disturbing thing isn't that Doug Pederson stopped running the football.

The most disturbing thing is why.

Pederson said he abandoned the run simply because the Eagles weren't running the ball well.

"Obviously, I was not pleased with how we ran the ball," he said after the Eagles lost Sunday, 27-20, to the Chiefs in a game in which he called 56 pass plays and 13 running plays — the ratio was 38 to five in the second half.

"It's an area that we have to fix."

With 20 hours to reflect, Pederson didn't change his stance:

"We've got to get the run game fixed," Pederson said at his Monday presser.

But in reality, the Eagles didn't run the football that badly.

At all.

And I for the life of me can't figure out why Pederson believes they did.

How on Earth can you conclude that the running game needs fixing when your backs averaged a respectable 4.0 yards per carry, got just 13 carries in the game and just seven in the last 41½ minutes and your presumed starting running back never touched the ball and the only guy who got more than three carries averaged 4.8 yards a pop?

Math. Facts. 

Let's take a look at the Eagles' 11 drives with a list of how many running plays and pass plays (passes, sacks and Carson Wentz scrambles) they ran and exactly how many yards the backs got on those running plays:

1) 3 run, 7 pass → 12, 6, 3
2) 3 run, 4 pass → -2, 2, -3
3) 1 run, 6 pass → 6
4) 1 run, 1 pass → 11
5) 1 run, 5 pass → 3
6) 2 run, 5 pass → 8, 3
7) 1 run, 9 pass → 5
8) 1 run, 3 pass →-2
9) 0 run, 3 pass
10) 0 run, 13 pass
11) 0 run, 1 pass

A few things stand out in this breakdown.

• First of all, after the second drive, Pederson called only seven running plays on the Eagles' last nine drives. Throw out the last two drives because the Eagles trailed by 14 points and then had a Hail Mary, and you still have a ratio of 13 runs and 43 passes while this was still a one-possession game.

• But other than the second drive of the game, when three runs produced minus-three yards, the running game was effective. On the first drive, three runs netted 21 yards. The next five drives contained just six running plays, but they netted 36 yards — that's 6.0 yards per carry. So with the game tied at 13-all with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles' running backs were averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

The Eagles' final running play of the game was a two-yard loss by Wendell Smallwood with 10 minutes left in the game, and that dropped their average to 4.0, but it was only Smallwood's third carry of the game. Certainly not enough to evaluate him on.

• Sproles finished with a 4.8 average, which is anything but "struggling," which was Pederson's word. So was Pederson's conclusion that the Eagles were "obviously" having trouble running the ball based on Smallwood's four yards on three carries? One of those three was an eight-yard gain, so is he basing that obvious conclusion on two carries 34 minutes apart by a backup back who had just three carries in the game?

• Pederson said Monday one of the main reasons he abandoned the run against the Chiefs was because the Eagles kept finding themselves in 3rd-and-long situations.

Here's his quote:

"You put yourself in a 2nd-and-12 or a 2nd-and-13, and it's hard. Now you're going uphill, and yesterday we had seven 3rd-and-10-pluses and another five 3rd-and-7s and that's unacceptable. We can't be in that many long-yardage situations in these football games, so we've got to focus on the run game."

Wrong.

Those 2nd-and-longs weren't because of the run game! The Eagles actually averaged more yards per play on first down when they ran than when they threw! 

Their 26 passing first downs averaged 4.8 yards per play, and their eight first-down runs averaged 5.0 yards per play. 

More pointedly, 12 of those 26 first-down passes resulted in a gain of zero yards or a loss of yardage. That's 46 percent. Only two of the eight first-down runs netted zero or fewer yards — that's 25 percent. And both were runs by the third-string back.

Where were the struggles? The backs averaged 5.0 yards per carry on first down (40 yards on eight runs), so that wasn't the problem. So what was it?

It was imaginary. It did not exist. It was a figment of Pederson's mind.

The only issue was Pederson once again struggling to stick with a running game that was operating at a functional level.

And I don't even know how you evaluate a running game when your last nine series include only seven running plays. How do you make any kind of determination about what's working and what's not working when over the last 40½ minutes of the game, Sproles had just five carries and Smallwood had two?

And if your issue is that Sproles can't handle much more than 10 carries, well then … there are other backs on the roster. But we never saw Blount and we never saw Corey Clement.

It doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up.

Maybe the Eagles' running game really is in need of an overhaul. I certainly agree that this isn't the most dynamic group of backs ever assembled. But you can't determine that from Sunday's paltry sample size.

Why do I keep harping on this? 

Because when you don't run the ball, defenses tee off on the quarterback. We saw it Sunday at Arrowhead.

Wentz was sacked a career-high six times, four times in the second half, when the running game wasn't a factor, and he absorbed a number of vicious hits as well.  

And here's the really alarming thing.

Players know. They openly questioned Pederson in the locker room after the game.

Lane Johnson: "In order to win games in this league, you have to able to run the ball."

Zach Ertz: "You can't be throwing the ball 40 times in a game."

Brandon Brooks: "I wish we would have ran the ball more. But we didn’t."

There's a lot to like about this Eagles team. 

Their front four is thunderous. The secondary has played as well as you could hope with a bunch of kids and a bunch of injuries. Wentz looks more and more each week like a budding star. Ertz is off to a great start. Alshon Jeffery is starting to look like a stud. Special teams are as good as anybody's and always will be under Dave Fipp. And this team always plays hard for Pederson.

This could be a playoff team. This should be a playoff team. But it won't be unless Pederson gets all of this figured out.

Roob Stats: A deeper look inside Zach Ertz's tear

Roob Stats: A deeper look inside Zach Ertz's tear

Following Sunday's 27-20 Eagles loss to the Chiefs, Reuben Frank has crunched the numbers like only he can to come up with the following stats you would have never even known existed.

• Zach Ertz had a 53-yard catch for the Eagles, and Travis Kelce had a 44-yard catch for the Chiefs. That made this the first Eagles game in at least 27 years where tight ends from both teams had receptions of 40 yards or more. Available records for longest catch only go back to 1981.

• Ertz reached 3,000 receiving yards in just his 63rd career game, tying Tony Gonzalez for the ninth-fastest tight end to reach that milestone. Only Kellen Winslow Sr. (45), Rob Gronkowski (47), Jimmy Graham (49), Kellen Winslow Jr. (55), Antonio Gates (56), Mark Bavaro (60), Bob Tucker (60) and Jeremy Shockey (62) reached 3,000 yards faster.

• Carson Wentz is only the fifth quarterback 24 or younger in NFL history to open a season with two 300-yard passing games. The others are Drew Bledsoe in 1994, Cam Newton in 2011, Robert Griffin III in 2013 and Blake Bortles in 2016. With six 300-yard games, Wentz has the fourth-most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first 18 games. Kurt Warner had 10, Marc Bulger seven and Andrew Luck seven.

• Wentz has completed 430 passes in his career, by far the most in NFL history by a quarterback after 18 games. Sam Bradford, his former teammate, completed 393, followed by Bulger with 390. His 692 attempts are second-most ever after 18 games (Andrew Luck had 693) and his 4,423 passing yards are sixth-most ever (behind Luck, Warner, Bulger, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston).

• This is the first time in 28 years no Eagle running back has rushed for 50 yards in a game in the Eagles’ first two games. In 1989, the Eagles opened the season against Seattle, where their leading rusher was Mark Higgs with 44 yards, and in Week 2 in Washington, their leading rusher was Anthony Toney, with 24 yards. That was the great Randall 447-yard, five-TD comeback.

• Alex Smith became only the third quarterback ever to post a passer rating of 110 or higher against the Eagles while playing for two different teams (minimum of 20 passes). Smith, who had a 113.8 passer rating Sunday, had a 112.1 rating against the Eagles while playing for the 49ers in a 24-23 win in 2011. The only other QBs with a 110 rating or higher for two different teams against the Eagles: Fran Tarkenton, who did it for the Giants in 1967 and Vikings in 1973, and Peyton Manning, who did it for the Colts in 1999 and 2002 and the Broncos in 2013.

• Jake Elliott’s 30-yard field goal miss was only the fifth by an Eagles kicker since 1994 from 30 yards or less. The others were by Gary Anderson (from 29 yards vs. Cowboys in 1996), Norm Johnson (26 yards vs. Buccaneers in 1999), David Akers (23 yards vs. Falcons in 2006) and Alex Henery (28 yards vs. Giants in 2012). Before Elliott’s miss, Eagles kickers had made 223 of their previous 227 attempts from 30 yards and in (98.2 percent).

• Speaking of kickers, former Eagle Cody Parkey, in his first game as a Dolphin, made a 54-yard field goal Sunday against the Buccaneers, making him 6 for 6 in his career from 50 yards and up. He has the most 50-yard attempts without a miss in NFL history. And only one other kicker — current Raiders rookie Giorgio Tavecchio — has made more than one career 50-yarder without a miss. Tavecchio was 2 for 2 from 50 and out in his first NFL game, against Tennessee last week. Parkey was 4 for 4 from 50 and out with the Eagles in 2014 and 1 for 1 with the Browns last year.

• Kareem Hunt’s 53-yard touchdown was only the second rushing TD of 50 yards or more the Eagles have allowed in the last decade. The only other one was a first-quarter 72-yard touchdown by C.J. Prosise of the Seahawks in Seattle last year. Before that you have to go back to Travis Henry’s 70-yarder for the Titans at the Linc in 2006. Hunt’s TD was only the seventh of 50 yards or more the Eagles have allowed in their last 379 games going back to 1993.

• With five more catches Sunday, Ertz increased his career total to 260. That’s the sixth-most in NFL history by a tight end after 63 games, behind only Kellen Winslow Sr. (339), Kellen Winslow Jr. (307), Jimmy Graham (300), Gronk (299), Gates (281), Mike Ditka (274) and Pettigrew (263). Ertz is the first NFC tight end with 90 or more yards in each of the first two weeks of a season since Jason Witten in 2011. ‘

• With 139 yards on the last day of last season against the Cowboys and 93 and 97 yards the first two games this year, Ertz is the first Eagle with 90 or more receiving yards in three straight games since Terrell Owens had five straight 100-yard games from Week 3 through Week 7 of 2004. Before that you have to go back to Irving Fryar in 1996, Fred Barnett in 1991 and Mike Quick in 1983 and 1985. Ertz's streak is the longest current streak in the NFL.

• With 406 yards Sunday, the Eagles now have 13 games since opening day 2011 with 400 or more yards but 20 or fewer points. No other team has more than nine such during that same span.