DeVan Unseats Watkins; Hanson Returns to Birds

Danny Watkins won't start after all in St. Louis on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

All kinds of stuff happening down at NovaCare today, as the Eagles begin preparations in earnest for Sunday's season opener at St. Louis.

Brief overview: Joselio Hanson is back, presumably at a lower price, Trevard Lindley is gone, and rookie right guard Danny Watkins won't be starting after all in Week 1.

Eagles coach Andy Reid, asked if Watkins remains the starting right guard, said he wasn't "going to get into all those personnel things."

Reid did break out, "Sometimes it's good to take one small step back to take a step forward." which is what we heard when Donovan McNabb was briefly benched in 2008 for Kevin Kolb.

It developed that Kyle DeVan, the former Colts guard the Birds picked up on waivers this week, is going to serve as Watkins' Doug Pederson, to extend the McNabb analogy. (Pederson, now the Eagles' QB coach, started the first half of McNabb's rookie season, to keep the rookie from being thrown to the wolves, unprepared.)

"Kyle seems pretty confident in what he's doing, with assignments and technique," right tackle Todd Herremans said, when asked about the sudden shift in starters to his left. "Coach Reid always does everything with the best interests of the team and the guys. This is the right move for right now."

Watkins, 26, the first-round draft pick from Baylor who never played football until he was 22, said he had been asked not to comment on whether he is starting.

He said he feels he needs to improve "schemewise." he said he feels he is "overanalyzing," not playing instinctively.

Watkins said DeVan, who played for offensive line coach Howard Mudd in Indianapolis,  is already mentoring him.

"I'm using him as a resource, for sure," Watkins said,

Watkins said he never thought he was owed a starting job. "That's a coaching decision," he said.

"Howard's been a great help, my entire career," DeVan said. "I came in and got a playbook Monday, and Howard's been able to say, 'OK, this play is just like this in Indy's offense, this is what we're looking for.' As far as the technique, I know the technique, I've done it for two straight years. That's not going to be the problem. The problem is -- there's not going to be any problem, but me learning the offense quickly and learning the playcalls out of the huddle. Once we get to the field, whoever's in there, whether I'm in there or not, I can watch and hear from veterans and hear the calls."

DeVan said he didn't know if he would start, but he took first-team practice reps today.

Hanson, meanwhile, spent five years as a reliable nickel corner for the Birds, but when Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominiqe Rodgers-Cromartie arrived this summer, along with third-round rookie Curtis Marsh, it seemed likely Hanson wiould be traded. As cutdown day arrived, those options dried up an the Eagles ended up releasing him.

Today they brought him back and let go of another corner, Lindley, a fourth-round pick in 2010. What changed? Well, probably the $2 million or so Hanson was scheduled to make this season under his former contract, The Eagles announced a new two-year deal for Hanson. If you were to guess that the Eagles allowed Hanson and his agent some time to find somebody who was willing to pay him under his old deal before bringing him back at a lower figure, you might very well be right.

In fact, Hanson told reporters he never left the Philadelphia area. He spent the weekend in Atlantic City, he said, getting nibbles from five teams and offers from two, neither of whom was promising much. He will play a dime role with the Eagles.

"It's tough getting released at this time because everybody has their team set. I weighed my options," said Hanson, who reclaimed jersey No. 21, making Ronnie Brown No. 36 again, at least for the time being. "It made the most sense to come back here. I know the enviornment, I know the culture, I know the playbook, I know my teammates."


Backup QB Vince Young was the only Eagle held out of practice. Young is running in a pool as he rehabs his hamstring injury, Reid said.

More from Reid:

* Jeremy Maclin, who missed training camp with an illness, will have an opportunity to play, Reid said. He said Maclin has taken every snap in recent practices. Maclin reiterated how special it will be for him to open the season in his hometown of St. Louis, where his former school has purchased 1,000 tickets.

* Reid again said that tackle Winston Justice (knee) is getting better and is aiming for Sunday. The coaches weren't able to work with him while he was on the PUP list, so he could be behind on scheme.

* Wide receiver Steve Smith has been working with the starters in practice this week, but Reid said "we'll see" when asked about his availability for Sunday. He said Smith wants to play and feels like he is ready to play.

* Reid said rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews has showed improvement every game and has made all the calls and still gotten better.

* Of former Eagle Quintin Mikell, now with the Rams, Reid said he is always pulling for Mikell and is one of his biggest fans. He called him a "great leader."


From earlier: Scouts' take on the Eagles' defensive backs and T.O: DeSean should have held out