On Eric Rowe And the Corner Competition
Ever since Brian Dawkins moved to Denver and left a six-foot, 209-pound hole in the back end of the Eagles defense, fans have been longing to see some stability at the safety position. O.J. Atogwe, Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung flopped. Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett didn’t pan out. The list goes on.
When Eric Rowe was selected in the second round out of Utah, many assumed he would be used to complete the safety picture along with Malcolm Jenkins. Instead Rowe has been used exclusively at corner since coming to Philly, and the plan is to keep him there for now despite how the cornerback competition plays out.
“We drafted him in that corner position, knowing that we could move him to safety as his career progresses, if needed,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. “But you can’t say, ‘learn it all,’ and really expect him to shine. For instance, last year with Marcus Smith, I didn’t want to move him inside. Right now I think it’s a great opportunity for Eric to learn corner and go compete there.”
At this point, Walter Thurmond has spent most of training camp working opposite Jenkins at first team safety, while Rowe has seen his snaps divided between first and second team cornerback. Although he is more experienced at the safety position, Rowe says he expected to play corner all along.
“No, I wasn’t surprised because when they drafted me, they told me they wanted me to play corner,” Rowe explained. “I don’t show up here guessing what position I’m going to play, and even through the [draft] process, they told me they liked me as a corner because of my size and one year of experience.”
Rowe was also quick to mention how he enjoys playing in front of a proven veteran like Jenkins, and the second-year Eagle safety says he sees the potential in Rowe that made him a second-round pick.
“You know, we put him up with the ones the last couple of days and you start to see some of the rookie mistakes against some of the top-tier receivers,” Jenkins said. “But he definitely has the talent and the want-to to be a player in this league and right now it’s just about throwing him in the fire and seeing what he can do, seeing how he can respond, but we’re excited.”
Rowe has had his ups and downs during his time at corner, but the guy he’s been going up against for the majority of his snaps says the Utah product is helping his development.
“He’s doing a great job as a cornerback, he’s making me get better at going out every day,” said Eagles first-round pick Nelson Agholor. “He showed me a look today in cover-two where I need to have a better technique towards the outside release so it’s a great job by him and for me, I need to observe all of those things he’s doing to progress as a player.”
As camp has moved along, the competition for the starting cornerback spot opposite Byron Maxwell has narrowed into a two-horse race between Rowe and Nolan Carroll. And although Rowe would love to start, he understands it may be best for the team if a more experienced player is out there on opening night in Atlanta. But even if Carroll locks up that second corner slot, don’t expect the Eagles to give him a shot at safety until at least next season.
“He has the capability to do it, but as a young rookie, I’m not going to put that burden of learning [the position] on him right now,” Davis said. “Right now he’s a corner, he’ll compete at corner and that is his spot.”