Rowe Starts the Long Road Back
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - When the offseason work started for the Philadelphia Eagles, the conventional wisdom was that talented second-year player Eric Rowe would ascend to the starting right cornerback position and the other side was where the competition would congregate.
The new coaching staff had other ideas, however, and as spring turned into summer, it was Rowe who slowly began to slip on the depth chart.
And by the time training camp started on Monday the Eagles starters were Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll with Ron Brooks mixing in as the slot option in the nickel. Rowe, meanwhile, was relegated to the second-team at right corner opposite seventh-round rookie Jalen Mills.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson admitted earlier in the week that the 2015 second-round pick experienced some “hiccups” during the offseason while trying to learn Jim Schwartz's defense.
But, the more telling aspect in where Rowe stood was the fact that neither Pederson or Schwartz would bring up his name while talking about the position. Both had to be specifically asked about the 23-year-old before talking about him, something Schwartz rectified on Saturday by playing down any omission.
"Just like everybody else, [he] needs to be consistent from practice to practice, needs to make plays on the ball, needs to be physical in the run game," Schwartz said when asked what Rowe would need to do to get into the starting mix again. "And that [goes for] Eric, that's Leodis [CB Leodis McKelvin], that's Brooks [CB Ron Brooks], that's [CB] Nolan Carroll. You guys will probably get on me [for] whoever I forget [to name], but let's just put it as all the corners."
Schwartz should have added injuries because Rose did see some time with the ones during Saturday's marathon three-hour session but only after both Carroll (leg) and Brooks (cramps) tapped out. That continued Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field as Carroll was limited.
There really are only two options as far as explaining how the coaching staff is handling Rowe, either they truly don't like him as a player or it's an attempt to light a fire under a young player who doesn't always play with the temperament Schwartz prefers.
"Jim likes corners who have some swagger," a former NFL player who once worked for the Eagles' DC told 973espn.com. "You see how Leodis carries himself and even Brooks. That's why he wanted them here. They bring the attitude he hopes rubs off on the other guys."
From a physical standpoint Rose's ceiling as a player reaches far beyond options currently ahead of him on the death chart like Carroll and Brooks so forget about the intimations in some media outlets that the Eagles might considering moving on from Rowe.
In this era of NFL football you can never have enough good corners and while Rowe is certainly at the back end of the projected 53-man depth right now, his opportunity will come.
"All the corners are going to be judged on the same thing," Schwartz said. "All of them are in a little different spot, all of them have different strengths, different weaknesses. One of the things for us in training camp, is trying to find that best combination of guys and use them in the best way. So (Rowe is) no different than anybody there."
The first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging and it looks as if Rowe has finally done that, flashing in recent days by intercepting starter Sam Bradford on Friday and following that up by victimizing Chase Daniel at the Linc.
"I'm just working on my technique," Rose told 973espn.com after practice on Saturday. "You'd have to ask the coaches about being with the first team. I am just trying to make the most of my opportunities."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen