Packers Add Ex-Panthers Starter to Boost Secondary Depth

Rasul Douglas

Getty Rasul Douglas #24 of the Carolina Panthers during warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Inglewood, California.

With All-Pro Jaire Alexander not expected to be available against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, the Green Bay Packers are adding some depth to their cornerback position from another team’s practice squad.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced on October 6 that the team had signed fifth-year cornerback Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad, reinforcing their lineup with another veteran who has recent experience as a starter.

Douglas — the No. 99 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft — played his first three seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and tallied a combined five interceptions, nine tackles for a loss and 25 pass deflections across 48 games, winning Super Bowl LII with the team during his rookie season. By the 2020 offseason, though, the Eagles were trying to move on from Douglas and ended up releasing him during final roster cuts after being unable to find a trade partner for him.

Instead, Douglas landed with the Carolina Panthers for the 2020 season and became a quality starter as they battled injuries, finishing the year with a career-high 62 tackles and nine pass deflections while also starting in a career-most 11 games. After the season was over, he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as an unrestricted free agent; though, he did not make their initial active roster and went on to have practice-squad stints in both Houston and Arizona.

The Packers had two openings on their 53-man roster prior to adding Douglas and did not need to make a corresponding move to sign him. It is also expected that veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith will fill the other roster opening when his signing is made official on October 7, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network had originally reported.

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Douglas Provides Much-Needed CB Depth

The addition of Douglas should provide the Packers with a small sense of security at the cornerback position, which is a good thing considering they finished Week 4’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers without their two most experienced veterans on the field. Prior to his arrival, the only healthy cornerbacks on their active roster are Chandon Sullivan, rookies Eric Stokes and Shemar Jean-Charles and veteran backup Isaac Yiadom.

The biggest question mark for the position is undoubtedly Alexander. The All-Pro cornerback dropped out in the third quarter against the Steelers with a shoulder injury and did not return for the remainder of the game, prompting immediate concern about one of the team’s best defensive players. While head coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday the Packers are still hoping to avoid surgery “at all costs” with Alexander, he also acknowledged that they would “most likely” be playing the Bengals without him.

The Packers are also waiting to see whether Kevin King will be healthy enough to play in Week 5. King has missed two straight games with a concussion and, though he returned to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday, is still not guaranteed to play this week. If King does play, it is expected that he and Stokes will man the outside spots while Sullivan continues on in his regular role as their slot corner.

Will Kabion Ento Still Get a Chance?

When Alexander got injured, it seemed like a strong possibility that Kabion Ento would get called up to the active roster for the first time in his career. He has shown flashes over the past two offseasons for the Packers despite getting relegated to the practice squad coming into the 2021 season. Unfortunately, there might not be much playing time left over for him with Douglas getting added to the roster.

The real decision could come down to King’s health. Without King, the Packers would be forced to rely on a first-round rookie (Stokes) and their slot cornerback (Sullivan) as their primary starters with a bunch of unproven backups left to pick up the rest of the responsibilities in the rotation. Maybe the Packers have enough faith in Yiadom, Douglas and Jean-Charles to proceed without Ento, but the safer move might be using one of his two allotted practice-squad elevations to ensure injuries don’t make life harder against them in Cincinnati.

The Packers could also potentially elevate Ento as a COVID replacement, which does not count as one of his two elevation opportunities on the season. That option will only be available, however, if defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list at the end of the week.

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