Eagles Notes: Replacing JaCorey Shepherd

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

JaCorey Shepherd and Eric Rowe. (Photo by: Jeff Fusco)

A day after an MRI revealed JaCorey Shepherd tore the ACL in his right knee, Chip Kelly discussed the impact of the rookie cornerback’s injury.

“First and foremost, you just feel so bad for him because he’s worked so hard and invested so much into this. [He’s] a great young man. It was a tough time talking to him yesterday,” Kelly said. “We talked to him about using this as a rookie year so next year won’t be a rookie year. He’ll learn everything he needs to learn from a mental standpoint and he’ll start to rehab as soon as possible.”

Kelly said E.J. Biggers, Eric Rowe, and Jaylen Watkins will rotate at the nickel spot. The Eagles also announced they signed cornerback Marc Anthony after Kelly’s morning press conference. Anthony, who attended the University of California, was drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by the Baltimore Ravens.

Kelly mentioned that Watkins, who worked with the first team Sunday, has impressed defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

“He has done a nice job since camp has started so I know Billy has been happy with him,” Kelly said. “He’s got some versatility. He’s got nickel, he’s got corner, [and] he’s got safety ability. He’s gotten a lot better from a technical standpoint.”

Rowe, the 2015 second-round pick, has benefited from playing both safety and cornerback in college.

“That was one of the things that we were attracted to in the draft was his position versatility,” Kelly said. “We felt that because he had played safety and has good man-to-man cover skills, that he’d be a natural nickel. All those guys have to be versatile. If they’re not going to end up being the starter, then they got to be able to play everywhere.”

Although Kelly added that he’s “comfortable” with their options at cornerback, Shepherd’s injury raised questions once again about the Brandon Boykin trade. Before training camp started, the Eagles dealt Boykin to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2016. However, that pick can become a fourth-rounder depending on playing time.

“We just felt like we had really good depth in the secondary, better than we’ve ever had since we’ve been here,” Kelly said. “They finally got it up to a fourth, and we just felt like we couldn’t pass up that opportunity.”

Another defensive back Kelly discussed at length was Walter Thurmond. Kelly says Thurmond leads the defensive backs in turnovers caused this summer.

“He just has a knack for being around the ball. He’s a real savvy player back there; he’s fit in really well,” Kelly said. “He just always seems to be around the ball and makes plays.”

Kelly added that Kiko Alonso hasn’t passed the concussion protocol yet. He also doesn’t expect Jerome Couplin to be cleared until Monday after the Colts game, and hasn’t determined how much Sam Bradford will play in the first preseason game Sunday.