The Packers’ defense has exceeded expectations in 2021. They started the season slowly thanks, in part, to an injury to Za’Darius Smith among other issues, but since the beginning of the year, they have shaped themselves into a top 10 defense.

That has been no easy feat. After all, Green Bay has been missing its top cornerback, Jaire Alexander, for most of the season. It was expected that the Packers would be weaker against the pass without him. Instead, they have been just fine.

Part of that is due to the performance of first-round rookie Eric Stokes. The other part of the equation is the shockingly strong performance put forth by Rasul Douglas.

Douglas joined the Packers about a quarter of the way through the season and was largely signed to provide depth in the Packers’ banged-up secondary. However, Douglas rapidly became a starter for the Packers and has put forth his best season by far since being drafted into the NFL. His performance was good enough to earn him a Pro Bowl alternate nod despite not playing a full season.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my time in the National Football League, where somebody that comes in midseason has had such a tremendous impact on your football team,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Douglas, per the Wisconsin State Journal. “I love what he’s all about. I love how he competes. I love his approach on a daily basis. There might not be anybody on our team that watches more tape than him. He’s just constantly grinding, working at it, and I think it’s paying off for him.”

Who is Rasul Douglas and where did this burst of terrific play come from? Here’s what to know about the Packers’ cornerback who has blossomed into an overnight star.

MORE: Is Russell Wilson leaving the Seahawks?

Who is Rasul Douglas?

Douglas, 26, is a four-year NFL veteran who has been on six different teams during his career. He was drafted by the Eagles in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of West Virginia after he recorded eight interceptions during his final year with the Mountaineers.

Douglas spent his first three seasons in Philly. He recorded five interceptions in 46 games (18 starts) before he was waived on eve of the 2020 NFL season.

The Panthers scooped Douglas up and he became a starter for them in 2020. Douglas broke up nine passes and made 62 tackles, but he didn’t record an interception for the second consecutive season. Ultimately, Douglas’ play wasn’t good enough for the Panthers to keep him around, as he allowed a passer rating of 106.8 during the season.

Douglas bounced around quite a bit during the 2021 offseason. He was a late free-agent signing by the Raiders in April, but he failed to make the team. After the Raiders cut him in late August, he was signed by the Texans. He lasted six days there.

Finally, Douglas earned a practice squad spot with the Cardinals at the beginning of the 2021 NFL season. He spent a month there before the Packers came calling and added him to their 53-man roster on Oct. 6.

PACKERS: Aaron Rodgers won’t rule out retirement after 2021

Rasul Douglas stats 2021

Since joining the Packers, Douglas has been nothing short of spectacular. He quickly emerged as a top outside starter across from Stokes, and his presence has allowed the Packers to avoid playing Kevin King, who has had a lot of trouble in coverage in recent seasons.

Douglas has thrived on the outside and has served as a ballhawk for the Packers. Here is a look at the stats he has posted so far during the 2021 NFL season.

Games playedStartsTacklesInterceptionsPass defensesPassing rating allowed
1075351250

These numbers are set to be career-bests for Douglas despite the fact that he can only play a maximum of 12 regular-season games, which would be a career-low. Thanks to his strong performance, Pro Football Focus rates him as the 16th-best cornerback in football out of 116 qualified players.

Douglas’ giant step forward has been as crucial to the Packers as it has been impressive to his teammates.

SUTELAN: How Aaron Rodgers’ future impacts Davante Adams

How Aaron Rodgers, Packers view Rasul Douglas

The Packers have had nothing but good things to say about Douglas since he joined the team and was thrust into action in Week 6. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called him a “star” when discussing his performance after his two-pick game against the Packers.

“I think oftentimes, the idea of being a role player is looked (upon) as, ‘You’re a secondary contributor.’ We have guys who play important roles for us,” Rodgers said of Douglas, per the Wisconsin State Journal. “I don’t think Rasul is a role player. He’s a star. He’s got incredible ball skills, he’s around the football all the time, and he’s changed our team. He really has.”

Top receiver Davante Adams agrees with Rodgers. He cited that Douglas is “so quiet” but has blossomed into “one of the greatest” with the Packers.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s a superstar at the cornerback position,” Adams said.

Adams would know just how good Douglas is, as he routinely faces off against the top cornerback of the Packers’ opponents. But as good as Douglas has been on the field, Adams has been just as impressed with how he fits in off the field.

“He’s a great dude more than anything, man,” Adams said. “Humble. Humble dude, is dedicated to his craft in a similar way like Jaire, and we see the player that Jaire is and turned into. I can’t say enough about that dude. He’s a joy to be around and obviously a hell of a player, too.”

Douglas appreciates the confidence his teammates have shown in him, but he still thinks that he has a way to go before he can be considered a superstar.

“It means a lot. (But) I don’t think I’m a superstar yet,” Douglas said. “I think we have two superstars on our team: ‘12’ and ‘17’. But yeah, it means a lot. I’m just trying to keep working, just keep trying to mean something to the team.”

Even though Jaire Alexander is set to return for the postseason run, Douglas should still have a chance to “mean something” as he looks to help lead the Packers to their first Super Bowl title since 2011.