GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Oct. 3 against Pittsburgh, Green Bay Packers All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander suffered a serious shoulder injury.
A few days later, a top cornerback became available.
The New England Patriots and Stephon Gilmore, unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension, decided to part ways.
A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Gilmore was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he led the league in interceptions (six) and passes defensed (20). Better yet, he allegedly wanted to play for the Packers and was just about ready to go following December quad surgery.
It all seemed perfect. Until the Carolina Panthers – his hometown team – swooped in and acquired Gilmore for a sixth-round draft pick.
While all of that was happening, Rasul Douglas was in Green Bay. About an hour after the Gilmore-to-Panthers trade became official and right as the Packers were about to hit the practice field on that Wednesday, the team announced it had signed Douglas off Arizona’s practice squad.
Nobody – maybe not even Douglas – could have predicted the impact he would make.
Rasul Douglas Photo Gallery
The Packers are 9-3 at the bye, due in part to the play of their “consolation prize” addition at cornerback. With Alexander missing an eighth consecutive game with the shoulder injury and Kevin King missing his sixth game of the season with his latest injuries, Douglas earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording a pick-six among four passes defensed in an upset victory over the Rams on Sunday.
“It’s crazy how that happens in this league,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said on Monday.
Douglas made his Packers debut on Oct. 17 at Chicago when he replaced Isaac Yiadom after the opening possession. He hasn’t looked back. In seven games that include four starts, he has two interceptions (tied for the team lead) and eight passes defensed (tied for second on the team and three short of his career high). Douglas’ interception-return touchdown vs. the Rams was the first of his career, and his four passes defensed set a career high for the fifth-year pro.
After missing all of training camp rehabbing the quad, Gilmore has been eased back into action by Carolina. Three days after Douglas grabbed a game-saving interception at Arizona, Gilmore made his Panthers debut on Oct. 31 and grabbed the game-clinching interception against Atlanta. A week later, he picked off a pass against his former team. After playing a total of 46 snaps in his first three games, he logged 37 vs. Washington and 43 on Sunday vs. Miami. He still hasn’t started.
Data from Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions, based on their best guess at coverage responsibilities, show both teams improved their secondary.
In 76 coverage snaps, according to PFF, Gilmore has allowed 5-of-8 passing (62.5 percent) for just 37 yards. He has two interceptions and two passes defensed. With no touchdowns allowed, opponents have a meager 33.9 passer rating against Gilmore. According to SIS, Gilmore has allowed a 50.0 percent catch rate and just 3.5 yards per target.
In 261 coverage snaps, Douglas has allowed 23-of-42 passing (52.3 percent) for 258 yards, according to PFF. He’s allowed two touchdowns and yielded a 66.3 passer rating. According to SIS, Douglas has allowed a 44.2 percent catch rate, a career-best 6.4 yards per target, and one touchdown.
“Rasul has been a huge pickup for us,” coach Matt LaFleur said after the Rams game. “You’ve got to give credit to Gutey and his staff for finding him. I just love how he competes. You see it play in and play out. The guy is so competitive. You see it in practice every day. Obviously, he’s made two plays that have made major impacts on games this year. There’s multiple other plays he’s made that have really impacted games but, obviously, the two that come to mind were Arizona and then tonight having a pick-six. Just really proud of his effort. I think our guys have really embraced him and took him in, and we’re lucky to have a guy like that. It’s rare that you find a guy like that midseason.”
While Gilmore and Douglas have played well, the big difference is Douglas arrived healthy so was able to contribute immediately – a big deal considering the severity of Alexander’s injury and King’s injury history. Moreover, his cap charge of about $661,000 is a fraction of Gilmore’s $6.2 million, according to OverTheCap.com.
In the winning locker room on Sunday, LaFleur had Douglas address the team.
“I just told them that I appreciate all you guys in here,” Douglas said. “Y’all made me feel like this was home. And that’s a good feeling to have, you know what I’m saying? We’re happy we got the win. We’re excited. To go on a bye with a win, that’s definitely an extra little motivation just to feel good about going home or doing whatever guys are doing for the week off.”