Eagles Camp Notes: Are the Eagles putting too much on Rowe’s plate?
PHILADELPHIA - Rookie Eric Rowe has everything the Eagles want in an outsidecornerback but the ACL injury to fellow freshman JaCorey Shepherd sped up the team's plans for the second-round pick out of Utah.
Philadelphia was in search of a new slot corner after the trade that sent Brandon Boykin to the Steelers on the eve of training camp and Plan A was to let Shepherd, second-year man Jaylen Watkins and veteran E.J. Biggers handle the inside work in practice for a two-week period before reassessing where things stood.
With Shepherd out of the picture, however, Rowe was inserted in the three-man rotation and got his first looks at the position on Tuesday. By Thursday he was running in the first-team nickel package but it wasn't necessarily smooth sailing.
"I think I had a rough day (Wednesday)," the young cornerback admitted to 973ESPN.com. "Just in my man technique. My head was kind of spinning so it was just a block in my head. Trying to think about my man technique, trying to think about nickel stuff. Then I got frustrated. I mean I didn't show it on the field but I was mentally frustrated. I was on my heels in press technique and let guys get on top of me."
Understand the move to corner in general is still a transition for Rowe, who played safety for three years at Utah before moving outside a senior.
"It's not easy to go from three years of safety to corner," Rowe admitted. "Usually people go from corner to safety. There is not a lot of man coverage when you are playing safety and there's a lot at corner so you can get exposed real quick."
The lone starter set to return from last year's defensive backfield, veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, claims the ultimate plan this time around is to get the five best defensive backs on the field when the team goes into nickel.
Talent wise, Rowe is certainly in that group so now it's all about getting him up to speed.
“In the spring we kept (Rowe) in one position just to get his feet wet," coach Chip Kelly said. "I thought he did a really nice job competing with Nolan (Carroll) out there. (But, this) was the plan all along. All those guys (the defensive backs) have to be versatile. If they’re not going to end up being the starter, they’ve got to be able to play everywhere. So that’s part of the whole plan.
“We always want to start (players) on the outside and then be able to move in. So we felt that because he had played safety and has the man-to-man cover skills that he’d be a natural nickel.”
(Listen to John McMullen discuss Sam Bradford, Zach Ertz and more from Eagles Camp)
ERTZ INJURY CONCERNS
After getting banged-up in at least three different training camp practices, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was shut down for the entire preseason Friday with what Kelly described as a core muscle injury.
"We wanted to get it taken care of now," Kelly claimed, "so we didn't have to shut him down later."
Kelly expects the team's best pass-catching tight end to be ready for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 14 but take that timetable with a grain of salt because Ertz was sent to see Dr. Williams Meyers, the Philadelphia-based surgeon who is the go-to-guy around the NFL for sports hernia injuries.
"We just wanted to get it cleaned up," Kelly said before demurring and claiming he wasn't sure if Ertz would undergo a surgical procedure.
If Ertz does go under the knife, Sept. 14 seems like an awfully optimistic goal.
BRADFORD TO SIT AGAINST COLTS
It was hardly a surprise but Kelly made it official on Friday by naming Mark Sanchez the starter for the preseason opener against the Colts.
Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow, who are battling for the third spot, will follow Sanchez, who is expected to play minimal reps as in one of two series.
"(Bradford has) been out here just for two weeks and the other guy's (Sanchez) got a little better base," Kelly said. "There's a fine line" between wanting to get a player ready for the season, and exposing him unnecessarily to injury."
Bradford claimed earlier this week that he hoped to play and the coach acknowledged the presumptive starter's disappointment.
“Sam understands,” Kelly claimed. ”I think he’s disappointed, but I think he understands.”
Bradford will make his Eagles debut in the second preseason game against the Ravens a week from Saturday, which will follow a series of practices with John Harbaugh and Co.
"He’ll get his first work against the Ravens when we get a chance to train with them for a couple days before we play, and he’ll play in the Ravens game," Kelly said.
FRIDAY CAMP CHATTER
-With Trent Cole and Todd Herremans set to return to town with the Colts, Kelly made sure to acknowledge each claiming "they were both outstanding leaders here and money is only reason they're not still here."
-The Eagles made a few minor roster moves in advance of the game, waiving/injured a pair of players, linebacker Brandon Hepburn (abdominal issue) and defensive end B.J. McBryde (foot). The team also signed DE Alfy Hill, who started his college career at Alabama before finishing it at Winston Salem State.