Every day during meetings, the Eagles coaches show the depth chart for the day's practices. It's still early in training camp - the first games have yet to be played - so they're largely a formality, designed for players to get reps against different teammates.
But this week, rookie Eric Rowe was surprised to see his name appear at the top of the cornerback depth chart, switching spots with Nolan Carroll II.
Throughout the week, the rookie out of Utah has split time between the first and second teams. According to Rowe, the move is about seeing how he can handle playing against the team's top receivers. So while Rowe is still spending time facing off against Miles Austin and Nelson Agholor, he's now also going against guys like Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff.
"It’s been great going against new receivers like Huff or Riley. That’s the only difference, really," Rowe said after practice Saturday, " I guess there’s a reason why he [put me with the first team], maybe see if I can go with the starters and the more experienced guys. I’m sure there’s a meaning behind it, but I’m not set in stone like ‘yes, I’m going to be the starter for the whole season.’"
Rowe is part of the cornerback competition to determine who still start opposite the newly-signed Byron Maxwell. Right now the veteran Carroll is getting the majority of the reps, but Rowe being rotated in during the first few practices of camp is likely a good sign. And Rowe will have a handful of practices before the first preseason game on August 16th against the Colts.
Rowe is advertised as a big, athletic defensive back who can play either safety or cornerback, which he did for the Utes last season. At this very early juncture it seems like Carroll has the lead in the cornerback race, but any way you slice it, getting the highly-touted rookie in against the first-team offense is beneficial. And if he does well? Even better.
"I think I did pretty good," Rowe said. "Confidence-wise I know I can run with them, so that’s obviously a confidence booster."
While Chip Kelly and his staff has shown that they prefer to ease rookies into playing time, a strong preseason from Rowe may force them to reconsider. After all, the Eagles moved up in the second round to nab Rowe, who fits the athletic profile the team is looking for out of its starting defensive backs. As Rowe said, nothing is set in stone at this point, but Rowe and Eagles fans should be excited that he's getting some early looks with the first team.