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Eagles rookies Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe step up in win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rookies are scary for coaches. They make mistakes. They lose their composure. It’s so much easier to stick with veterans.

After all, this year’s rookies will be veterans soon enough.

The Philadelphia Eagles got precious little from their draft class last season. Jordan Matthews contributed, but that was about it. First-round pick Marcus Smith still can’t find his way onto the field.

This year’s class is shaping up to be a very different story. Injuries forced the coaches to play second-round pick Eric Rowe and third-round pick Jordan Hicks against the New York Jets. The result was three turnovers caused by the Eagles' defense in a 24-17 win on Sunday.

“That’s what winning football teams do,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “Hicks had a great game. E. Rowe had a great game. That’s what good teams do: draft good young players and have them come in and play.”

Hicks started the game because of injuries to Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso. He was credited with 10 tackles. He also recovered a fumble when Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall attempted an ill-advised lateral.

Later, defensive end Brandon Bair tipped a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass. Hicks caught the ball for his first career interception.

“We were really excited about Jordan when we got him,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “We talked about him being a third-down linebacker. You’re starting to see that. He’s got great coverage skills. There’s a calmness to Jordan. I don’t think anything is too big for him.”

Rowe did not get on the field on defense in the Eagles’ first two games. That was somewhat disappointing, because he was in the mix to play a role in the Eagles’ nickel and dime defensive packages.

When the season began, though, the coaches decided to move safety Malcolm Jenkins over to cover slot receivers. Chris Maragos came in to play Jenkins’ safety spot.

But Maragos bruised his knee in the first half of Sunday’s game. He was unable to return to the game. So Jenkins stayed at safety while Rowe and E.J. Biggers came in and played cornerback.

In the third quarter, Rowe was matched up with Jets wide receiver Devin Smith. On a third-and-5 play from the Eagles’ 30-yard line, New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a deep ball for Smith streaking down the left sideline.

“Eric had really good coverage,” Kelly said.

Rowe caught the pass for his first career interception.

“It was a big confidence booster,” Rowe said. “Now I know how the game speed is. Now I just have to focus on next week, go back to practice and be ready in case they call my number again.”

The coaches won’t hesitate to call on Rowe again. He’s still a rookie, but he played like a veteran on Sunday.

“My confidence didn’t really go down,” Rowe said. “I just knew what I needed to work on.”