Oct 052011
Eagles rookie RG Danny Watkins

It’s about time.  Per a report from the News Journal’s Geoff Mosher, citing a team source, the Eagles have decided to finally put rookie right guard Danny Watkins in the starting lineup.

The first round pick was expected to start from day one and held the job throughout training camp and the preseason.  Unfortunately Watkins struggled greatly, and when Kyle DeVan — who previously played for offensive line coach Howard Mudd with the Colts — didn’t make final cuts in Indianapolis the veteran was claimed and Watkins was benched.

Now after four games it seems Watkins can stop watching and remove those splinters.  The fact that it’s possibly just due to DeVan himself struggling doesn’t say much for Watkins though.  And to say it’s disappointing that it’s taken this long at all would be a massive understatement.

The Eagles used the 23rd pick of the first round on a guard, one of the least “valuable” positions in the NFL.  A guard who didn’t even start playing football until college and who at 27 was already closer to retirement age than pretty much any player drafted even five or six years ago.

It didn’t help that Watkins also held out of the first five days of training camp despite the NFL implementing a new rookie wage scale that took away the need for most negotiating points.  A horrible, short-sighted, arrogant decision that really set him back.  It really is a shame since by all appearances Watkins, a former firefighter, seems to be a truly stand up guy and hard worker.

But the fact that he has already missed four games when the clock is literally clicking on his career is troubling at best.  Most guys are given the luxury of time to develop, but not at the guard position and especially not when they’re taken in the first round.  Players like that are expected to come in and play right away.  Not just suit up and hit the field but play effectively.  This isn’t a wide receiver adapting to NFL-style coverage.  Combine those points with Watkins’ age and that the Eagles actually used a low-20s first round pick on the guy and the bust label is fast approaching.

The excuse that the lockout robbed teams of OTAs and other offseason work doesn’t fly either since that problem affected all rookies and really, all players in general.  A first-round pick at guard needed to be smacking people around immediately, lockout be damned.  Now Watkins needs to get on the field and show what he can do.  He doesn’t have to be Logan Mankins from the jump but he also shouldn’t be getting dominated or getting Mike Vick killed.

Starting Sunday in Buffalo, it’s game on.  Watkins needs to step up big time, especially with the most important position on the line now being manned by King Dunlap thanks to left tackle Jason Peters’ hamstring injury.  With the Giant Turn-style out there on the left and Watkins bustin his cherry on the right it could be a very long day for Vick and the offense.

Actually, for the injury-prone Vick, it will likely be a very short day.  It’s Vince Young who should be very scared.  VY better hope that hamstring is all the way healed because he’s going to be running for his life in Buffalo.  For the 1-3 Eagles, that can’t happen and Watkins needs to do his part to make sure it doesn’t.

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