The 2021 season was a special one for Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas. He had a dramatic turnaround and went from being a fringe roster player on the Cardinals practice squad to leading the Packers in interceptions.
Douglas was released by both the Raiders and Texans during training camp and then found himself on the Cardinals practice squad. The former third-round pick of the Eagles was claimed by the Packers in early October after injuries to Kevin King and Jaire Alexander created a need at cornerback.
He filled the need and then some. He made his presence known in a big way against the Cardinals, the team that the Packers claimed him from. He intercepted Kyler Murray in the end zone in the final minute of the game to clinch a 24-21 win over the previously unbeaten Cardinals.
Douglas felt comfortable with the Packers almost immediately. “The guys welcomed me in,” he recalled. “Honestly, my first home game here, I was thinking, I want to be here forever.”
Over the course of the season, Douglas had five interceptions in just 12 games and returned two of them for touchdowns.
In addition to the big plays, Douglas also was consistent during his time with the Packers. According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed only 50 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Douglas and had a quarterback rating of just 44.5. Those were both career-best numbers by far.
Douglas’ impact was noticed by Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my time in the National Football League, where somebody who comes in midseason has such tremendous impact on your football team,” LaFleur told reporters in December.
Douglas doesn’t have elite speed like the other starting cornerbacks on the Packers roster, Eric Stokes and Jaire Alexander. Instead, Douglas uses his intelligence and diligent film study to anticipate plays and put himself in the right position to break up plays.
After the season, the Packers re-signed Douglas to a new, three-year, $21 million contract. That gives the Packers three strong starting cornerbacks.
“In a short period of time, Rasul made a huge impact on the Packers with his professionalism and on-field performance,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said after Packers announced Douglas’ return. “We are excited that he is returning to Green Bay and look forward to his contributions to the team both on the field and in the locker room.”
But while the new contract gives Douglas’ career a boost, he’s not taking anything for granted. “It feels good, but nothing’s ever [guaranteed], you know what I’m saying?” Douglas said. “A contract means a contract but, at any time, if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, they can let you go. You’ve just got to keep working.”
It’s still unclear exactly what role Douglas will play on defense this season. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry hasn’t announced who will cover the opposing team’s slot receivers, a position known as the “star” in Barry’s scheme.
Thus far, Barry said that Douglas, Stokes, Alexander and safety Darnell Savage will all see some time playing star. Although Douglas didn’t play much against slot receivers with the Packers, he has done it before during his NFL career. By having four different players who can cover the slot receiver, the Packers hope to be able to keep opposing offenses guessing and a little bit off-balance this season while they try to figure out how to game plan against the defense.
Douglas is ready to start his first full season in Green Bay. He should be even more comfortable in the system and his hard work should pay even more dividends. Obviously, it is up to Douglas to prove that 2021 was not a fluke.
He is also confident that the Packers top three corners and the starting safety duo of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos could give the Packers one of the best if not the best secondaries in the NFL.
“We’re trying to be the best secondary,” Douglas admitted. “We’ve got the best two safeties, the best three corners. We’re trying to put that all together.”
If they do and the depth pieces fall into place, the Packers could have an elite defense this season.
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