Everyone will remember the game-winning interception, but Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas proved to his teammates that he belonged with another great performance on Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
Douglas bounced around this offseason, joining three different training camp or practice squad rosters before finally landing with the Packers in response to injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. His final stop before Green Bay was actually Arizona, so Thursday’s contest was technically a revenge game for the 26-year-old.
Since arriving in Green Bay, Douglas has quickly overtaken Isaac Yiadom on the depth chart and had a big impact as an outside corner. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Douglas has been targeted 16 times in three games, allowing just nine catches for 87 yards, an interception, and an opposing passer rating of just 45.6.
After turning on the tape the last few weeks, it’s apparent that Douglas is a starting-caliber cornerback not only because of his coverage skills but his aggressiveness as well.
One of the big things that certain Packers cornerbacks have struggled with over the past couple of seasons has been sticking with their receivers when the pass rush doesn’t immediately get home. That extra time has typically led to panic or mistakes that have resulted in explosive plays.
Douglas hasn’t shown much panic in his game as an established veteran. His first big play from Thursday night came against A.J. Green. With the Cardinals receiver breaking across the field, Douglas stayed in phase with him the entire way, and then made a confident play to break up the pass at the catch point.
Nice job here by Rasul Douglas (top of screen), following his WR all the way across the field before breaking up the pass. pic.twitter.com/pRzT6O4E0B— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 1, 2021
It wasn’t the most impressive play from a technical standpoint, but Packers fans will appreciate a cornerback who sticks with his receiver across the field without grabbing or whiffing on a play.
Packers fans are also probably wondering about how Douglas handles the deep ball as an outside cornerback. There’s good news there as well, as Douglas is quite comfortable with his play strength and toughness to naturally cause receivers to drift towards the sideline, using it as an extra defender. This is called “using the sideline as leverage”, and is a great way for a cornerback to avoid giving up big plays deep downfield.
This is a great example of what we talk about when referring to "using the sideline as leverage".— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 1, 2021
Keep inside of the WR and use your physicality to force them to drift towards the boundary. pic.twitter.com/WKhYsA46Ba
The Packers have also needed a cornerback who can attack downhill aggressively to make plays against the run and on screen/swing passes in Jaire’s absence. Rookie Eric Stokes has shown good willingness to break downhill, but his tackling attempts haven’t always been the cleanest, and receivers blocking can sometimes wash him out of the play.
Although the play below still resulted in a first down, Douglas did a great job of showcasing his physical toughness and aggressiveness, fighting through the block to get to the ball carrier and slow him down in time for help to arrive.
May have resulted in a first down, but I love the aggressiveness and ability to fight through the block from Rasul Douglas here. pic.twitter.com/lCjkewoVnx— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 1, 2021
These kinds of plays aren’t an anomaly for Douglas, either. He finished Thursday night’s game with nine solo tackles, the most of any play on either team, and he ranks sixth on the Packers defense with 18 solo tackles on the year despite only seeing action in three games.
His open-field tackling looks quite solid as well. Douglas uses a wide base, keeps his feet moving and attacks with low pad level to wrap ball carriers up at the legs to bring them down consistently.
Having a depth CB that can open-field tackle >>>> pic.twitter.com/s1MFJ23B1N— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 1, 2021
During my time scouting college players, I remembered Douglas as a ball hawk at West Virginia. He finished his final college season in 2016 with eight interceptions and eight passes broken up, helping his draft stock to get him drafted 99th overall in the 2017 NFL draft.
Everyone points to A.J. Green for messing up on Arizona’s final offense play, which is more than fair. However, the play that Douglas was able to make on the ball, even after bobbling it, is a credit to his ball skills that have been on display since his time with the Mountaineers.
Bobbled. Caught. Feet in Bounds. Interception.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 1, 2021
Bye Bye. pic.twitter.com/3JGqCFWOiy
Douglas also deserves bonus points for one of the coldest ways to celebrate a game-sealing interception, waving goodbye to the crowd almost immediately.
For someone who was signed off a practice squad just a few weeks ago, Douglas is having a massive impact on Green Bay’s defense at a position where the team is extremely thin. It’s a credit to general manager Brian Gutekunst and his pro personnel department for finding Douglas, and a sign that the Packers defense could be extremely dangerous once players like Jaire and Z’Darius Smith are healthy.