Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Assessing the Watkins situation

The wait is over.

Assessing the Watkins situation

Eagles rookie Danny Watkins will reportedly make his first career start Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles rookie Danny Watkins will reportedly make his first career start Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The wait is over.

Eagles first-round pick Danny Watkins will make his first career start Sunday against the Bills, according to Geoff Mosher of The Wilmington News-Journal.

Watkins, the 23rd selection in April's draft, has been inactive in three of four games. But that will reportedly change when he replaces Kyle DeVan as the Eagles look to win their first game since the opener.

As I wrote in Man Up on Tuesday, DeVan really struggled in the second half of Sunday's loss to the 49ers, although he wasn't alone. The line as a whole did not play well and had trouble with San Francisco's talented front seven.

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Overall, DeVan has had ups and downs in four games, which was to be expected. His best game was probably Week 2 against the Falcons, but he has been the Eagles' most inconsistent lineman.

Having said that, the move comes as a bit of a surprise, only because we have no idea if Watkins is ready.

How much can a guy improve during the week if he's not playing on Sundays? We'll find out the answer to that question soon enough.

After holding out during the start of training camp, Watkins took over as the starting right guard, but struggled in the preseason. Given that he turns 27 in November, I was one of many who assumed Watkins would be on the field right away.

But that didn't happen. And while the shortened offseason was a factor, Watkins is in the minority when you compare him to first-round picks around the league.

I took a look at snap counts from Pro Football Focus. Here's a chart of how much each first-round pick has played so far this season:

 Pick Player
1 Cam Newton QB Panthers  296
2 Von Miller LB Broncos  245
3 Marcell Dareus DL Bills  189
4 A.J. Green WR Bengals  247
5 Patrick Peterson CB Cardinals  226
6 Julio Jones WR Falcons  247
7 Aldon Smith DL 49ers  110
8 Jake Locker QB Titans  6
9 Tyron Smith OL Cowboys  288
10 Blaine Gabbert QB Jaguars  145
11 J.J. Watt DL Texans  216
12 Christian Ponder QB Vikings  0
13 Nick Fairley DL Lions  0
14 Robert Quinn DL Rams  140
15 Mike Pouncey OL Dolphins  270
16 Ryan Kerrigan DL Redskins  252
17 Nate Solder OL Patriots  249
18 Corey Liuget DL Chargers  101
19 Prince Amukamara CB Giants  0
20 Adrian Clayborn DL Bucs  166
21 Phil Taylor DL Browns  172
22 Anthony Castonzo OL Colts  200
23 Danny Watkins OL Eagles  0
24 Cameron Jordan DL Saints  136
25 James Carpenter OL Seahawks  247
26 Jonathan Baldwin WR Chiefs  0
27 Jimmy Smith CB Ravens  0
28 Mark Ingram RB Saints  90
29 Gabe Carimi OL Bears  100
30 Muhammad Wilkerson DL Jets  140
31 Cam Heyward DL Steelers  47
32 Derek Sherrod OL Packers  7

What stands out here? At first glance, it looks like Watkins has company. Ponder, Fairley, Amukamara, Baldwin and J. Smith have also seen no action this season.

But there's a catch. Ponder is a quarterback playing behind Donovan McNabb, so his situation is different. And the other four guys haven't been on the field because of injuries. In other words, Watkins is the only healthy, non-quarterback who hasn't played at all.

There were seven other offensive linemen taken in the first round: Tyron Smith, Mike Pouncey, Nate Solder, Anthony Castonzo, James Carpenter, Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod.

Six of them - Smith, Pouncey, Solder, Castonzo, Carpenter and Carimi - have all started when healthy. Watkins has company in Sherrod, who was the final pick in the first round. He was in contention for a starting spot but has only been active for one of the Packers' four games.

Within the NFC East, Tyron Smith is reportedly making a name for himself in Dallas. And Ryan Kerrigan was named rookie of the month in September. He has 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown in four games with the Redskins. Amukamara, meanwhile, has been sidelined with an injury.

In other words, other teams are not using the lockout or the shortened offseason as an excuse for their first-round picks not being on the field. Just last week, we saw 49ers rookie Aldon Smith give the Eagles all kinds of problems with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits.

Watkins has been waiting. He was given a chance to win the starting job in the preseason, but couldn't hold on to it. Now he gets another shot.

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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