It's easy to get overshadowed these days in the Miami Dolphins defense, what with Xavien Howard getting an interception seemingly every week and Emmanuel Ogbah among the league leaders in sacks, two of which directly produced touchdowns.
But it would be a mistake to overlook the contributions of several other players, and one name that should be at or near the top of that list is safety Eric Rowe.
Where Howard and fellow cornerback Byron Jones have done a great job of covering opposing wide receivers, Rowe's work against starting tight ends has been equally impressive.
And now comes his biggest challenge of the season in the form of record-breaking Travis Kelce.
Kelce is fifth in the NFL in receptions with 82 and he will come to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday having set a record for most receiving yards through 12 games by a tight end with 1,114 yards. Oh, the record he broke? The one he set in 2018.
This guy clearly is a different kind of tight end.
"What makes him different is a lot of tight ends when they run their routes, they don’t really stem, they don’t push leverages, they don’t do stuff like receivers do," Rowe said. "They kind of just run the route like you see on paper. If it’s an over, they’ll run straight across the field and you’ll be like, ‘OK, that’s easy.’ But with him, he’ll push you vertical, maybe a couple of juke steps, jab out, then break on his route, which obviously makes it harder to cover. He has a totally different skill set.”
But Rowe also has a different skill set from a lot of safeties because he played his first three-plus seasons in the NFL as a cornerback before the Dolphins moved him to safety, a move that will go down as one of the smartest the coaching staff has made in recent years.
Kelce will represent Rowe's toughest matchup of the season, though far from the only one.
Rowe already has faced San Francisco's George Kittle, and that came one week after Kittle torched the Philadelphia Eagles for 15 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. Against the Dolphins, Kittle had four catches for 44 yards on eight targets.
That's some impressive work right there.
Rowe also pretty much shut down talented Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, holding him to four catches for 30 yards, though Hunter did score a third-quarter touchdown. That's the only one allowed by Rowe this season.
Another indication of Rowe's strong work is that no starting tight end has gained more than 55 receiving yards against the Dolphins, that distinction belonging to Denver's Noah Fant.
To expect Rowe to completely shut down Kelce might be unfair considering Kelce is averaging 92.8 receiving yards per game and has topped 100 yards in four of his past five games, but there's reason for optimism he can keep him somewhat in check.
Rowe will have another tough test in Week 16 against Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders, but first things first.
This game against Kansas City will be a massive challenge for everybody on the Dolphins defense, but Rowe is excited to see how his unit will measure up.
“This is really going to test us to see how good we are as a defense — from our run defense, to pass, to pass rush, to coverage, to everything," he said. "It’s not like a team that let’s say we get a jump on them and we have a comfortable lead and we’re good. Nah, we’ve all seen them score and put up points. I think last year they put up like 21 points in two minutes or something like that against the Texans. This is going to be a good test for us. We’ve got to play all four quarters, 60 minutes. Everyone has to be on their details because one slip-up and we all see how explosive this offense is."