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Eric Rowe is the new gold standard.
He personifies what we should want to see from every player who is added to the Miami Dolphins roster during this era.
While a Hall of Fame worthy player would certainly be ideal, a team that is made up of smart, reliable, consistent producers can make some noise in the NFL.
Rowe might not be a homegrown talent that was drafted and cultivated by this organization. But the 28-year-old has blossomed into a player everyone who cares about the organization should admire because he typically gets the job done, no matter what task is put on his plate.
“It takes time and patience,” Rowe said Wednesday when asked about his evolution as a player entering his seventh NFL season. “Obviously, you need to learn the defense. But know your role, and who you are as a player.”
Awareness is key. And so is a commitment to keep improving.
Rowe began his stay in Miami as a journeyman signed by the Dolphins in 2019.
Cast aside by New England with a low-ball offer as a free agent, he was one of the few former Patriots who joined Brian Flores in the coaches’ migration from New England to South Florida.
Miami signed Rowe to a respectable, but not bank-breaking, one-year deal worth $3.5 million. He was one of the few veterans added in the 2019 offseason to teach the culture Flores was trying to instill as a first-year head coach.
Rowe chuckled on Wednesday thinking back on the challenges that 2019 season brought, and how that team, which was composed of NFL journeymen, practice squad players, waiver wire claims and roster long shots, were facing an uphill climb each week.
It started from the season opener, where the players stepped on the field for an embarrassing 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens barely knowing each other’s name after five days of practicing together following a series of questionable roster moves.
As Rowe pointed out, the score reflected the discomfort that season began with.
“Big jump from ’19 till now,” said Rowe, who the Dolphins coaches initially had playing cornerback early into the 2019 season.
Rowe was decent in that role, but when former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick forced his way off the roster, getting traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a first-round pick after the season’s first month, the Dolphins needed to find a replacement.
Flores and his staff called on Rowe, a former college safety, to transition to safety and play a specialized role where he would usually defend tight ends.
Rowe stepped up and answered the call, accepting the role Fitzpatrick despised and wanted no part of.
But Rowe wasn’t just keeping the seat warm, he began to thrive at safety, a position that allowed him to utilize his blend of size, and speed to match up with opposing tight ends. And as a result, the Dolphins rewarded him with a three-year, $16 million extension during that season, even though he wasn’t a finished product.
Even though there were tight ends he struggled against, like when he was asked to cover two Pro Bowlers — Las Vegas’ Darren Waller and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce — one-on-one, Rowe has generally held his own, even when facing elites like George Kittle and Greg Olsen.
That’s why the Waller game stands out to him, and the Sept. 26 rematch against the Raiders is bookmarked on his calendar.
“I’ve been waiting on that one all year.” Rowe said of the Week 3 trip to Las Vegas to face Waller again. “That one got me. I need a rematch.
“With both those guys I have to step my game up,” Rowe said, referring to Waller, who caught six passes for 112 yards in a loss to the Dolphins, and Kelce, who caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown during his matchup versus Rowe.
“They’re not really tight ends. They are receivers who can run,” Rowe continued. “With those two you have to take your game to another level.”
With Rowe, there is confidence that he will do just that, find a solution to a problem and rise to the occasion.
Let’s hope we can say that with conviction about a couple more players on this roster moving forward, and that Rowe’s evolution as a player will not only continue but can be replicated.