Can Stoutland save Danny Watkins' career?

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Can Stoutland save Danny Watkins' career?

Before you write off Danny Watkins, before you file him in the drawer labeled “Busts” along with Jaiquawn Jarrett and Macho Harris, Jeff Stoutland would like a word with you.

The word is Patience.

Stoutland is the Eagles' new offensive line coach and he thinks Watkins still can be a big-time player. He has read the scouting reports and watched the film and he is convinced there is a lot there. So don’t ship Danny Boy back to the firehouse just yet.

“I know what a good player looks like,” Stoutland said on Monday, “and I like what I see in Danny.”

Stoutland should know what a good player looks like. He spent the 2012 season coaching the Alabama offensive line, the line that crushed Notre Dame in the BCS title game, a line with three stud players -- center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker -- that will go early in April’s draft.

Watkins was a first-round pick two years ago but now he is viewed as a colossal mistake. He lost his starting job to a guy off the street (Jake Scott) last season. He fell so far out of favor with the Eagles' coaches that he didn’t even dress for the final two games.

Most fans see Watkins as a lost cause. Stoutland sees something entirely different.

“I think Danny Watkins is a winner,” Stoutland said. “He’s athletic, he’s explosive. I see a young man with a lot of talent.”

The first question that comes to mind is, “What film was Stoutland watching?” The player he described bore no resemblance to Watkins. It was almost painful to watch Watkins on film last season; he looked lost and ineffective.

Consider this: the Eagles started five different line combinations. They lost three starters to injury: Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans. By the end of the season, they were starting a seventh-round pick (King Dunlap), a rookie (Dennis Kelly), an undrafted free agent (Dallas Reynolds) and Scott, who was out of the league when the season began. And Watkins couldn’t crack that lineup?

There is a temptation to write him off as a bad pick, an over-aged college player with a limited football background, a reach that didn’t pan out. Those things happen. You cut your losses and move on. But the Eagles are determined to salvage Watkins, and Stoutland is the man entrusted with that responsibility.

Can it work? Like so much else about the Chip Kelly regime, we’ll have to wait and see. But at least Watkins has a clean slate with this staff and, in Stoutland, he has a coach who will do everything possible to rebuild his confidence.

Kelly described Stoutland as “a creative, cutting-edge line coach with old-school toughness.” He said Stoutland’s strength is his ability to make “complex things very simple.” That is exactly what Watkins needs if he hopes to succeed.

Stoutland will simplify things for Watkins. Howard Mudd, the previous line coach, made them more complicated. Mudd’s techniques were unlike anything most of the linemen had played before. It was particularly hard for Watkins, who had played so little football. Also, Stoutland believes in stressing the positive. Mudd was more critical. Maybe a pat on the back is what Watkins needs at this point.

Greg Austin, the assistant offensive line coach, is 28, the same age as Watkins. Like Stoutland, he believes in positive reinforcement.

“We’re going to be the most positive coaches on the field,” Austin said. “Jeff said, ‘I’ll never give up on one of our guys.’ I like that approach. I’m sure it will make guys play better.

“We’re going to put Danny in situations where he can be successful. There is no reason why he can’t be. He is a big, explosive guy. We want our linemen to play fast and physical. Danny can do that.”

Watkins has the size (6-3, 310 pounds) and strength. Watching him on film, it appears his biggest problem is indecision. If the defense runs a blitz or a stunt, Watkins is often left flat-footed with his head spinning. It has happened often enough that it wrecked his confidence. Instead of being the aggressive drive blocker he was in college, Watkins became a guy who was pushed around.

If Stoutland can put Watkins in a system he understands and teach him techniques that he is comfortable with, maybe then he can rebuild his confidence and develop into the lineman the Eagles drafted him to be. There is a lot riding on this. If Stoutland can’t unlock Watkins’ potential and he spends another year in the shadows, that probably will be the end of it and he will officially be a bust.

But Stoutland doesn’t foresee that.

“I can’t wait to get my hands on Danny and start coaching him,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

NFL Notes: Browns plan to 'move on' from WR Josh Gordon

NFL Notes: Browns plan to 'move on' from WR Josh Gordon

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns coach Hue Jackson says the team has "moved on" from suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon.

A day after Gordon said he's entering rehab, Jackson made it clear the Browns have ended their relationship with the 25-year-old, whose off-field troubles have prevented him from building on a breakout season in 2013.

Jackson reiterated that the team supports Gordon, who was on the brink of returning from a four-game NFL suspension for his latest drug violation. Jackson said his focus needs to on "taking care of the players that are here." After fielding a few questions, Jackson, in his first year as Cleveland's coach, said he's done talking about Gordon and said the team "needs to close that chapter right now."

Gordon was eligible to return next week and could have played in the Oc. 9 game against New England (see full story).

Jets: WR Eric Decker out "week to week" with partially torn rotator cuff
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.  -- New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker has a partially torn rotator cuff that will sideline him for the team's game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Coach Todd Bowles announced Friday that Decker will be "week to week" with the shoulder injury.

Decker did not participate in practice all week.

Decker injured the shoulder against Buffalo on Sept. 15, but it worsened last Sunday during the Jets' loss at Kansas City. The wide receiver said after the game that the shoulder was sore, but an MRI revealed that it was worse than that (see full story).

Bills: Team has "major concerns" Sammy Watkins may be out long-term
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins will miss his second straight game due to a foot injury, and Bills coach Rex Ryan admitted he has "major concern" that Watkins could be out long-term.

Watkins underwent foot surgery in the offseason and has been hampered by foot soreness in recent weeks. He had a setback last week when a teammate stepped on his injured foot at a walk-through practice.

Ryan said there is no updated timetable regarding Watkins' return, but admitted his concern is growing.

"Well, there's some ... I don't know if fear's the right word, but major concern," Ryan said.

The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Watkins has struggled with injuries throughout his time with the Bills. In his first two seasons, Watkins dealt with hip, calf, rib and groin injuries.

When he's been able to play, Watkins has been one of the top young receivers in the league. In 31 games, he has 131 receptions for 2,092 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has six receptions for 63 yards in two games this season.

The Bills have struggled to get their passing game going with Watkins at less than 100 percent. Through three games, Buffalo ranks last in the league in passing with an average of 163.7 yards per game.

Receiver Greg Salas (groin), tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle) and center Patrick Lewis (knee) are also out for Sunday's game against New England. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (high ankle sprain) is expected to return after missing the previous two games. Tight end Charles Clay (knee), safety Aaron Williams (ankle) and cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring) are listed as questionable but expected to play.

Buffalo (1-2) heads to New England (3-0) this Sunday.

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season.