When the Eagles made Danny Watkins the 23rd pick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft, the intention was for the 26-year old former fire fighter to step in immediately as the starter and aid in an offensive line transformation. On Wednesday, it seems as if the Eagles best intentions weren’t enough to prepare Watkins to start in the season opener in St. Louis against The Rams. He’ll be demoted, while newly signed Kyle DeVan steps in with the first team.
Watkins spent all of training camp and the preseason with the first team on an offensive line that has featured more rotating parts than pit road at the Indianapolis 500. Tood Herremans was moved from left guard to right tackle, Jason Kelce became the team’s starting center over veteran Jamaal Jackson and now Watkins has been replaced by DeVan who was recently signed as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts. DeVan has spent all of two practices at Novacare and will be lined up between Herremans and Kelce at 1:00 on Sunday at the noise factory that is the Edward Jones Dome.
Head Coach Andy Reid was asked on Wednesday about whether or not Watkins remained his starting guard, and the coach was noncommittal to say the least.
“I’m not going to get into all the personnel things here,” Reid said. “We’ll see”
That’s a far cry from an endorsement for the player that was a first round pick and played in the fourth preseason game of his own accord to get extra reps in a new system.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing to take one small step back to take a big step forward.” Reid said, affectively opening the floodgates of speculation regarding the offensive line. “He’ll go out there practicing. We got Kyle, who can also play in that spot. We’re comfortable with either direction we go.”
While it’s hard to cast dispersions or blame towards Watkins given that as a rookie he did not have the benefit of OTA’s or an offseason program to grow accustomed to life in the NFL, this sudden demotion is worrisome on an offensive line that to date has seen only one player start in the same position daily: left tackle Jason Peters.
“Right now,” Herremans said. “This is really what’s best for the team.”
Furthermore, for teams with championship aspirations, first round draft picks must see the field and must play an impact immediately. This is especially true along the offensive line. Names such as Orlando Pace, Marcus Pouncey and Joe Thomas all come to mind as impact offensive linemen who stepped in and played immediately. So far Watkins is not in that class.
Emptying the notebook
- The Eagles re-signed veteran cornerback Joselio Hanson and released Trevard Lindley on Wednesday. Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie has been less than stellar in the slot and Hanson could step in as the team’s top nickel corner immediately. Meanwhile, Lindley’s release speaks volumes as he was a fourth round pick a year ago and now joins defensive end Daniel Te’o-nesheim as players cut from the 2010 draft class.
- All quiet on the DeSean Jackson front. Jackson was at Novacare today but chose to sit in his locker stall on the cell phone rather than discuss his situation with the media. Conventional wisdom was that the Eagles would work quickly to address the fourth year receiver’s contract situation after extending Michael Vick for six years. However, as the opener draws closer by the day the chance to re-up Jackson before the season is dwindling. There are even rumblings of tagging Jackson as the team’s franchise player next season and allowing him to play out the final year of his contract that pays him $600 thousand.
Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL