How Fletcher Cox Challenged Rasul Douglas to Play Better

Rasul Douglas's tackling was so bad in the first Dallas game that none other than Fletcher Cox called him out for it.

"First start against Dallas I knew I kind of missed a few tackles," Douglas said. "Fletch came up to me and he tapped me on the chest and told me, ‘Man, we need all of you. Make some tackles, make some sure tackles,' and I was like, ‘You're right.' And then I just started improving on it and made sure every chance I had to make a tackle I made it."

When Fletch speaks, people listen.

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And it's been remarkable watching Douglas find his way after his early season struggles.

He's improved as a tackler, he's improved in coverage, he's grown more confident … he's gotten better in every way.

The Eagles have spent much of the season without starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, who are both on Injured Reserve, and they've also been playing without Sidney Jones, who's battled a hamstring injury.

It's created an opportunity for Douglas, and the 23-year-old from North Jersey has made the most of it.

He's certainly been an improved player for us," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He had some rough spots early in the year, and he was also helping out in some (new) positions. I mean, it was tough throwing him out there at safety because of some of the situations that we had, but he's come up big at the right time.

Douglas was in and out of the lineup for much of the season as Schwartz tried to assemble a functional secondary despite a rash of injuries and as Douglas himself dealt with knee and ankle issues.

When things finally settled down, Douglas was at one outside corner, and rookie Avonte Maddox was at the other.

And the Eagles started winning. They're 6-3 with Douglas in the lineup going into Sunday's wild-card-round game against the Bears in Chicago.

Douglas has started the last five games, and the Eagles are 4-1 and have allowed only five passing TDs in those games.

"I think his journey this year has sort of mimicked the defense as a whole," Schwartz said. "He's playing his best football late in the season. He's overcome some things. He's put some performances behind him. He's tackled much better. I think all the things you can say about Rasul you could probably just put the defense right next to him."

Douglas may have been frustrated that he wasn't playing, but he never let it show. 

I think I'm a good team player, that's first. Trying to do whatever's best for the team. At that point it wasn't my time. And I always knew that, I always rooted for Darby and J-Mill and took a piece of their game to make my game better so in case anything happened I'd be ready.

Douglas is a ball hawk.

He's got five interceptions in limited playing time the last two years, and that's seventh-most of all players who were rookies last year, even though he's only started 12 games during that span.

The only Eagles with more INTs before their 24th birthday over the last 40 years are Kurt Coleman and Brandon Boykin, with six each.

In Washington on Sunday, he picked off Josh Johnson on the first play of the game.

But the biggest difference in Douglas's game is his tackling. It's gone from a liability to a strength.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm healthy, I guess that's the best thing. I'm just trying to get the guy on the ground."

The Eagles have some decisions to make at corner. Darby is a free agent but could be back, Mills was a starter on a Super Bowl team, Jones is a former second-round pick that the Eagles are still high on, and Maddox has shown he can play safety, slot or outside.

But the way Douglas is playing, it's going to be tough to keep him off the field.

The Eagles go into Chicago feeling much better about their secondary than they did a month and a half ago, and Douglas is one of the biggest reasons why.

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