Eagles Wake-Up Call: Opportunity For Rowe, Watkins
Eric Rowe called the experience of playing nickel Tuesday “a little mind-blowing.” For all the moving around he did at the University of Utah (he was a safety and corner there), this was a new vantage point for him.
“You do have to train your eyes differently because you are in the mix of stuff instead of being outside on an island. Run plays are more involved,” he said. “On a pass play, sometimes you’ve gotta get your eyes on the quarterback, sometimes you’ve gotta get your eyes on a receiver. Corner, you always get your eyes on a receiver. So it is a different mindset.”
Rowe didn’t get much of a heads up that he’d be moving inside. According to the second-round pick, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin delivered the news via text message just hours before practice. Rowe wasn’t mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Brandon Boykin inside when the trade initially went down, but his name surfaced on Tuesday when asked what the plan was for slot corner now that JaCorey Shepherd has been lost to an ACL tear. Kelly said the plan was to test Rowe in the slot all along.
“All those guys have to be versatile,” said Kelly, when asked if there was concern over having a young player learn another position. “If they’re not going to end up being the starter, then they’ve got to be able to play everywhere. That’s part of the whole plan, but I think through the spring we kept him in one position specifically just to get his feet wet.”
Kelly mentioned Jaylen Watkins and E.J. Biggers as other potential options, while noting that Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins are capable of playing some slot corner. On this day, Rowe ran with the second team at nickel and Watkins was with the ones. The second-year DB out of Florida had a good showing. He was charged with keeping up with Jordan Matthews for much of the day and for the most part held his own.
“Jaylen is an amazing athlete. I’ve been going up against Jaylen since college,” said Matthews. “Back when he was at Florida, we came in at the same time so I saw him…from the jump. While we were going against each other in college there used to be all that talk about all the other DBs at Florida. Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy. But when anybody asked me who I thought was the best one, I was always like, ‘I think Watkins is the best one.’ Because he was so versatile. He could play nickel, he could play corner and he could play safety. He’s really smart. So when you put a guy like that on the inside who knows where his defensive help is, who knows how to come in and play man and can step outside and play corner too, I think that’s a valuable asset to the team. I think he’s going to be a great guy for us.”
This week, the plan is for Watkins, Rowe and E.J. Biggers to divvy up the nickel reps.
While the position addition came on quick for Rowe, he says that it’s the type of challenge he’s been preparing for.
“They threw me into the fire, fast-paced, but that’s what this league is about so you have to be ready,” he said.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I think it’d just make me more anxious for the second game.” Sam Bradford on his knee, the Pope and Sunday’s game.
Practice observations: Marcus Smith flashes (and then flashes again); Another Bradford-Matthews connection.
Kelly on the aftermath of Shepherd’s injury, Kiko Alonso and more.
“He sets the agenda. You don’t follow it, you’re dead to him.” National media on Kelly, Eagles.
A new chapter at Birds 24/7.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski with some practice notes.
• Miles Austin had an active day on what has been a quiet camp. Austin isn’t just going to make the team. He’s going to play. The team gave him a million dollars guaranteed, and he hasn’t played special teams in five years. He’s going to be in the mix in some way as a receiver.
• DeMarco Murray practiced today. He lowered his shoulder into Walter Thurmond’s chest on a physical run. However, if you didn’t factor in past success and pay, Ryan Mathews has had a far better camp, even when Murray has practiced.
Jeff McLane notes that there doesn’t seem to be much of a quarterback competition going on.
Sam Bradford has taken the majority of first team repetitions – approximately 90 percent to Sanchez’s 10 percent – since the first day of Eagles training camp eight practices ago. At this point, he has seemingly earned it. Bradford has been increasingly accurate.
But Chip Kelly said in the spring that there would be an open competition at quarterback, despite overwhelming reasons to hand Bradford the job from the jump. (The reasons include trading for him and giving up Nick Foles and a second-round pick, a $13 million contract and, ultimately, talent.)
You’ve got to think Sanchez believed his coach. Isn’t that how any real competitor prepares for a challenge? With optimism? But with Kelly, as it is with any head coach, it’s better to follow his actions than his words, and the snap distribution so far suggests a competition that was never really open.
We’ll speak to Pat Shurmur at 11:25 prior to practice.