In Disney’s animated film “Aladdin,” the title character is referred to as a ‘diamond in the rough.’
A “diamond in the rough” is defined as someone who has special qualities but is lost among some mitigating circumstances.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that’s Aladdin. The phrase can also be applied to Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas.
When general manager Brian Gutekunst plucked Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad, not many outside of the organization had heard of him. After all, the Packers were his fourth team in 2021 and his sixth team overall since entering the league as a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. Douglas was just another disappointing pick who turned into journeyman cornerback.
That is until he landed in Green Bay and that journey took a turn for the better.
Douglas is no longer just a man. He has become THE man at cornerback for the Packers since star Jaire Alexander went down with a shoulder injury in Week 4. In fact, it was that injury that prompted Gutekunst to steal Douglas from Arizona just three days after the Week 4 win.
Since that day, Douglas’ signing is proving so valuable to the Packers that Gutekunst might find himself indicted for grand larceny in the state of Arizona. The question has been asked countless times on social media but it needs to be asked formally here:
How was this man on a practice squad and let alone go through an eighth of the league in a single season?!
He made his first big play by forcing a fumble in just his third game in Green Bay against Washington (he also defected a pass) but it wasn’t until four days later that he really became a household name in Wisconsin.
Douglas really got everyone’s attention when he made the game-winning interception against his former team to give the Packers a huge win over the Cardinals. He benefited from AJ Green not turning his head to look at the incoming pass but it also wasn’t an easy grab as the ball was outside of Douglas’ shoulder.
Not wanting to be a one-hit-wonder, Douglas once again made THE play of the game against yet another NFC West opponent. This time it was Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams and Douglas was scoring the touchdown instead of preventing it.
With the third quarter nearing its end and trailing by two scores, the Rams were seeking a touchdown to open the door for a comeback win in the fourth. They were facing 3rd and 7 from their own 28, trying to extend the drive and get those six points to begin the final quarter.
That’s when Douglas didn’t just close the door on a Los Angeles comeback, he set the Rams’ whole house on fire.
We keep praising Rasul Douglas for his click-close ability when breaking downhill.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 1, 2021
Helped him come away with the Pick Six. pic.twitter.com/7GXlX9Lx85
He jumped Cooper Kupp’s route with Henry Black in the area to assist in case of a reception and Douglas timed his jump perfectly, closing quickly. He not only made the interception but also scored a touchdown giving Green Bay a 36-17 lead and all but ending the Rams’ chance of coming back to steal a win.
The pick-six was the splash play of the day for Douglas but he showed up in other areas too. For example, look here how he disengages and dips from his block by Andrew Whitworth to snuff out a screen to tackle Tyler Higbee for a short gain.
Rasul Douglas made some great plays on Sunday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 1, 2021
Dipping under the block on this screen was my favorite. pic.twitter.com/FFpdUl05cW
Not that any more evidence on film was needed but Douglas has been playing very good football and has seen his career take off under Joe Barry and Jerry Gray. Sometimes it is amazing what a change in scenery can do for a player and we have seen that with Douglas much like we have also seen with De’Vondre Campbell.
His fellow players have enjoyed having Douglas in the locker room as well, with head coach Matt LaFleur praising Gutekunst and the front office for finding him. “We’re lucky to have a guy like that. It’s rare you find a guy like that mid-season” LaFleur said after Sunday’s win.
There is still plenty of football left to be played on 2021 but a new contract for Douglas should probably be discussed. He’s not only made two impact plays in critical wins that could tilt the home-field advantage in Green Bay’s favor but he’s also stabilized the secondary without Jaire Alexander, with a passer rating of 66.3 passer rating in coverage. He's not only played sound football, but Douglas’presence has helped Eric Stokes as the rookie has so far successfully adapted to the NFL game and he’s also helped Kevin King who has missed time with injuries himself.
Once Alexander returns, the Packers are going to be in the enviable position of being very deep in the secondary which should give Barry even more options in terms of disguising coverages and diversifying dime and nickel packages.
That’s how valuable Douglas has been to the Packers and like LaFleur said, you don’t get that kind of bang for your buck in mid-season additions often.
Douglas has truly been a diamond in the rough discovery for Green Bay and he could very well be a big jewel in the rings the Packers receive should they win the Super Bowl in February.