The New England Patriots acquired second-year cornerback Eric Rowe in early September, swapping a conditional draft pick for the former Philadelphia Eagles player. Rowe, selected 47th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Utah, played all 16 games for Philadelphia last season, made five starts and finished with 25 total tackles, 1 interception and 5 passes defensed.
Rowe was a healthy scratch for the Patriots opener, only to miss the next three games with an ankle injury and was once again a healthy scratch last week in Cleveland. However, as second-round pick Cyrus Jones has struggled this season, most notably getting ejected from the Patriots victory against the Browns, Rowe was given his first chance to prove himself in New England on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 23-year-old is a bigger cornerback, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, and utilized his size to help the New England secondary contain the Bengals star wideout A.J. Green. The pro bowler caught 6 balls for 88 yards in the first half, but was limited to just 2 catches for 32 yards after Rowe spent more time on him following the intermission.
Rowe came up clutch with a pass breakup against Green in the fourth quarter, preventing a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone as the Bengals faced third-and-2 from the Patriots 7-yard line.
“It felt great just getting back on the field, getting that adrenaline rush again, especially with the challenge of going against A.J. Green,” Rowe told reporters after the game. “I missed that feeling.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick liked what he saw from Rowe.
“It was our first chance to see him in game action for us, too,” Belichick said during his Monday morning conference call. “I thought he did some good things. Not perfect. Some things to work on. But he did some good things. The play he made on Green on the flag pattern there in the end zone was a very good play. So we’ll keep working. I’m sure he’ll keep working. We’ll just see where it takes us. But certainly an encouraging start.”
Rowe and the Patriots secondary will have another tough task with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown.