Philadelphia Eagles News

Eric Rowe: Continuing Education At CB

Across from him was NFL veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, the itty-bitty future Hall of Famer with the big-time game in every way. For rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, it was another day and another part of the education into what it takes to make it here.

This is what it's like for Rowe, the Eagles' second-round draft pick in May. A safety and cornerback in college, at Utah, he's in the step-by-step phase of his first summer. Sometimes, it's baby steps. Sometimes, like on Wednesday when the Ravens came to the NovaCare Complex for the first of three day of joint training sessions, the steps are more like punches in the mouth.

Either way, Rowe is handling his business very well.

"I like the way Eric is learning how to be a pro," cornerback Byron Maxwell said. "It takes some time. You have to be patient and know that you're going to make mistakes. It's just going to happen. It's a hard job. You're going to give up plays. He keeps fighting."

You see that fight in Rowe at different times. On Sunday, Indianapolis wide receiver Philip Dorsett caught a pass in zone coverage, and Rowe punched the ball loose from behind to force a fumble that the Eagles recovered.

Rowe fought on Wednesday, too, but in a different way. Lining up at times against Smith, the 5-9, 195-pound giant of a receiver, Rowe battled and clawed and ignored Smith's all-world trash-talking skills and became a better cornerback. Smith has 915 receptions in his career by using his quickness and his suddenness and the subtleties of his body control to create separation from NFL cornerbacks who think they can smash him into the ground.

It doesn't work that way. Rowe had to be precise with his technique. He had to be exact with his movements. He had to fight the fight.

The Baltimore Ravens are in town leading up to #BALvsPHI on August 22. View the full gallery here...

"That was great. I was watching him when I was little. He even came to my school a couple of years ago to give us talks and stuff and now I was lined up against him," Rowe said about this welcome-to-the-NFL moment. "He is quick, but he's just crafty within his routes doing stuff that, obviously, I haven't seen anybody do except Miles (Austin, in practice). Not really hands, but body control and body positioning.

"Within the route, he's doing little, bitty insteps and he has me thinking, 'Oh, he's doing this and he's doing this.'"

On one route, Rowe anticipated Smith running a post route in the end zone and instead, Smith changed direction on a dime and ran to the flag and made the catch on a fade route. Subtle move. Huge result. Rowe won a couple, lost a few and learned a ton.

Along the way, he ignored Smith's constant chattering and stayed on his game. Rowe broke up a reception in the end zone by fighting after a near catch and knocked the football loose. He ran stride for stride with Smith down the right sideline until Smith came back for a back-shoulder throw - a fade, really - and a near catch (Rowe said the referee ruled Smith out of bounds).

"Being a rookie right now, seeing how crafty vets run their routes, it's going to be key for the future," Rowe said. "I've come a long way. I kind of watched the first couple of days of OTAs (from the spring) and my technique has gotten better so I'm pretty proud of that, the progression, the way I'm playing tight on receivers, the way I'm using my feet.

"I've still got a ways to go but at least I'm coming along."

Rowe said he played "alright" on Sunday and his 'man' technique was "a little bit off." He has pored over the film since then to correct his mistakes and he's handled the challenge of taking reps and learning both the slot position and the outside cornerback spot. Hopes are high for the 47th overall pick in the draft. He has the right mindset, the long arms and body and the work ethic. Rowe wants to be great.

It's going to happen one day at a time, one training session at a time and, working against players like Smith, one route after another. Having these kinds of joint sessions against another team, in this case a Super Bowl contender like the Ravens, pay off for everyone. With new faces and new games come new challenges. The session was crisp and the pace, while not as high as an Eagles-only day, was fast.

The football was good. The Eagles looked good in every phase of the game, although there was no tackling to the ground.

And for a kid like Rowe, the experience working against a future Hall of Fame wide receiver was invaluable, with two more days and a preseason game to follow.

"It was a good day of work for me," Rowe said. "I made some mistakes, but it was practice. I made a few mistakes and I made a few good plays, so I feel it was a good day of work."

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