Dexter McDougle went from simply enjoying the joys of fatherhood to the high-wire act of playing cornerback again in the NFL.
He wasn’t eased into last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, either. Despite being signed just a couple days before the game, McDougle played a whopping 81 percent of the defensive snaps, a total of 48 of them.
“I was just being a dad,” said McDougle, who had been unemployed as a football player since being cut by the Detroit Lions on Aug. 31. “I have a daughter now, six months old, almost seven months, so I was just being a dad, staying in tune with the game. I tried to watch it and put myself in certain situations. I was still there mentally. I was just waiting, honestly, waiting for the call and staying positive and it came.”
He added that he expected to play plenty.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said McDougle. “I know we have some guys down here, so I just wanted to prepare like I was going to play, but that’s how I practice anyway. I’ve been in this system before, a lot of familiarity there. Was just getting the reps and I felt like I got a good amount of reps. I went in there and did a pretty good job.”
McDougle played in eight games a season ago with the Eagles. Still, cornerback Rasul Douglas, a third-round draft pick last year, took just 13 snaps, all on special teams. That was just a week after Douglas was forced into playing safety against the Giants after Sidney Jones got hurt, when the team shuffled safety Avonte Maddox into the slot to replace Jones. Douglas got 42 snaps in that win over New York.
“He's really not a safety,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz about Douglas. “He was a safety in that game because that was our emergency situation, and that's the way we stacked it. That wasn't ideal, either.
“In-game, you'd rather just plug one player into a position and keep everybody else the same but we didn't have any other nickels, so Avonte needed to go down there and Rasul went in at safety. Again, it wasn't ideal, with a little bit of time we thought it was best just to plug-and-play Dexter who had been with us in the past and played a little bit of football for us.”
Apparently, Douglas can’t play slot cornerback, either. Schwartz said his best position is outside corner.
“He can do some other things for us, but if you're looking at trying to put him in the best position, I think it's always been outside corner for him,” said Schwartz.
Sidney Jones isn’t playing in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday morning, so it likely means another heavy dose of McDougle, though the Eagles could throw a last-minute changeup and use Chandon Sullivan, who was promoted from the practice squad on Thursday. Sullivan was an undrafted free agent when the Eagles signed him in the spring.
“Dexter was with us last year and was our backup nickel, and with Sid being week-to-week, we thought it was best to plug-and-play one guy in there rather than layering and moving a lot of different guys in there, so that was probably the biggest thing,” said Schwartz. “Dex did a good job in coverage. I’d like to see his tackling a little bit cleaner. I think it's probably a little bit to be accepted, a little bit of the cost of doing business when you get a guy that hasn't played in the last month.”
If McDougle does get as many snaps as he had last week, he knows his tackling must get better.
“I missed like two tackles, but I still made some as well, so I feel like that’s the one thing,” said McDougle. “I did extra work today after practice (on Wednesday), probably do some more (Thursday), just to make sure. I was out for like six weeks. You can never rep that (tackling) on air. So getting back in there and actually hitting somebody felt good.”