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Rowe was the fifth corner and there was a chance that he wasn't going to dress Sunday. But how did a second-round pick entering only his second season - after he showed promise in five starts as a rookie - suddenly become expendable?
"It wasn't as consistent as you would like it to be, just for a second-year guy," cornerback Nolan Carroll said. "You have those [inconsistencies] when you're a rookie."
But just several weeks ago, Schwartz was preaching patience in regard to Rowe. He has the size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash) and attitude (even-tempered) that most coaches would find attractive.
Something was missing, though. Rowe's technique looked little like it did a year ago. He was often trailing receivers in the preseason. But he had the same cornerbacks coach (Cory Undlin) and a scheme that wasn't drastically different from last season's.
"He's a good press corner," Schwartz said. "That's what his strengths are."
Rowe played safety for his first three seasons at Utah. He practiced there briefly last year, but Schwartz said he thought he was a corner.
But was he Schwartz's type of corner? The longtime defensive coach wants his defensive backs to play with a swagger.
Pederson said that the coaching staff has worked on Wentz's feet and upper-body mechanics over the spring and summer, but haven't spent much time on his release.
"We don't feel like it's a slow release," said Pederson. "It can be long at times. He's such a long guy, it can be like Colin Kaepernick-long at times. But anticipation, throwing the ball on time can help that process, get the ball out of his hand fast. The design of the play can get the ball out of his hand fast. So it's nothing that we've really spent a lot of time addressing with him more than just working on his feet and his mechanics from his lower body."
Wentz continues to prep for his first pro start this Sunday. He was elevated into the No. 1 role over the weekend after the Eagles dealt Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. Pederson was asked how the coaching staff can tell whether he's absorbing the game plan being installed for Week 1 against Cleveland.
"The way the installs are designed is to give him a quick blast on the overview of the play, the concept of the play, and then let him get with the position coaches and detail the finer points of the route, and then look at all the film and exhaust every coverage that he could potentially see on that play, and then just see how well he manages that in practice," said Pederson. "And not always giving him the same throws on the same route day-in and day-out, make sure he's getting multiple throws on the same play but against different looks, multiple looks. So that's how we kind of gauge where he's at mentally with how much he can handle and how much he can process from the meetings to the field."
The first test comes against an opponent that, frankly, Schwartz’s troops should be able to handle. Among other things, he expects Browns head coach Hue Jackson to let quarterback Robert Griffin III run read-option and take some deep shots down the field.
Still, this projects to be one of the league’s worst teams. If that is indeed Cleveland’s game plan, the Eagles defensive line will likely get more than a few chances to make some plays. In case you haven’t been paying attention, that is a good thing.
"They need to be tone setters," Schwartz said. "That’s one of the reasons we need those guys playing wide open. Everyone has to be running every play from a pursuit standpoint, stopping the run, creating negative plays, getting after the passer.
"It’s a very difficult thing to do, but when we’re playing well, that will be the engine that keeps us going."
Within that defense, the strength figures to be a front four that features Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham. In what is generally considered the most notable game of the preseason (Don’t tell Schwartz!), that front was in Andrew Luck’s face the entire first half, making the Colts offense look bad in the process.
Before the team’s first preseason game against Tampa Bay at Lincoln Financial Field, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo pulled out his phone, took a few pictures of the stadium and quickly sent them off to his parents.
For a moment, he let himself enjoy the atmosphere and reflected on his journey to the NFL. Sometimes, he still can’t comprehend how the teenager who moved to Philadelphia ascended the coaching ladder and ended up back where it all began.
"Growing up watching this team and coming to games and those things, I walk into work every day and sometimes just can’t believe I’m here," DeFilippo said. "Who would have thought this when I was at Radnor High School?"
DeFilippo moved to Delaware County with his family as a rising high school sophomore. His father, Gene, had accepted a job as the athletic director at Villanova University, just a stone’s throw down the road.
Adjusting to his new town and school, DeFilippo immediately turned to football, the sport he’d been playing for as long as he could remember. It had always been a constant for him. He quarterbacked the Raiders’ varsity team and then went on to play collegiately at James Madison University.
However, from the time he began at Radnor High School, DeFilippo knew he wanted his future to be in coaching. His ultimate dream was to work in the pros, an aspiration he knew would take hard work and dedication to achieve.
If you blinked, you may have missed Darren Sproles this summer.
The Eagles kept the 33-year-old running back on ice for most of the preseason. Despite being perfectly healthy, he played a total of 18 preseason snaps. Didn't have a single rushing attempt. Didn't return a single punt. Caught four passes for 16 yards.
"You always want to get out there with your teammates," Sproles said Thursday. "But they had a plan for me in the preseason."
That plan was to make absolutely certain that Sproles made it to the 2016 starting line Sunday in one piece. And he has.
He is going to be an important part of Doug Pederson's offense, though not necessarily as a runner. Oh, he'll get a few carries here and there, many of them probably on jet sweeps. But don't look for him to come anywhere close to last season's 83 carries. Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner will handle the ball-carrying load. Sproles' primary role this season will be as a receiver.
Strangely, the predictability and unoriginality of Kelly’s offense is a recent phenomenon. Kelly routinely introduced new wrinkles at Oregon, and, most impressively, he dramatically shifted his offense midway through his first season in Philadelphia. After a 15–7 loss to the Giants in 2013 — a game in which the Eagles mustered a mere 200 total yards and which dropped the Eagles to a disappointing 3–5 record — Kelly marched into the locker room and delivered a message:
"I’ll never forget this in all my years in the NFL," former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick recalled last year. "He said, ‘We will never look that way on offense the way we looked today, ever again.’"
And, at least for the rest of that 2013 season, Chip was right. The very next week, Kelly’s team bombed the Raiders with 49 points, while QB Nick Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes. And the offense was off to the races, smashing team records and finishing at or near the top of every major offensive category en route to a 7–1 record to close the season. Kelly did it by adapting, as he increasingly folded in NFL passing concepts brought by his assistants, particularly Pat Shurmur, and found new ways to run the ball from under center. Kelly had created a blend of shotgun spread and pro-style offenses that looked like the future.
Then … nothing. Kelly’s 2015 Eagles offense was essentially unchanged from 2013 (and the 49ers offense this preseason looked identical as well), and what two or three years prior was fresh is now stale and easily defended. If anything, Kelly’s later offenses were more simplistic than his earlier ones, as the creative motions and formations that Kelly once used so well largely vanished.
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