EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Danny Watkins, chatting with friends as he waited to board the Eagles team bus Thursday night, paused to exchange greetings with a police officer, then a guy wearing a blue FDNY T-shirt.
Watkins, once a volunteer firefighter, seemed to be in his element.
It is more difficult to assess the rookies comfort level on the field. The first-round draft pick from Baylor started the preseason-ending 24-14 victory over the Jets at right guard, and played the first quarter. He had said a few days ago that he requested that he play in the game, normally reserved for backups, but coach Andy Reid said afterward that he had planned to play Watkins anyway.
Either way, Watkins said, It was good. I was looking forward to it. The more playing time I can get, the better.
He is, after all, trying to make up for lost time, as he said.
With the lockout and holdout, I wanted to get him caught up on just reps, said Reid, who said he plans to start Watkins when the Eagles open their season on Sept. 11 in St. Louis. I thought he needed that. It was good to get him in and he wanted to work, so that was a plus.
On the Eagles first possession Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin shot the gap between Watkins and center Mike McGlynn, and hurried a throw by quarterback Vince Young. And later in the period Jets defensive tackle Marcus Dixon stood up Watkins at the line of scrimmage and stopped Dion Lewis for no gain.
But Watkins fared much better on the next two plays, gains of nine and 13 yards by Lewis over the right side. And in all Watkins thought his stint beneficial.
Just seeing different defensive fronts like this where its changing and you have to prepare for it, its good, he said. Throughout the season were going to see different looks and this is good experience just getting ready for that.
As Reid said, Its just a matter of playing. The more reps he gets, the better he gets. Thats why he played this evening. He did a real nice job against Pittsburgh (in the second preseason game). He came back last week (against Cleveland), and made a couple mistakes. Tonight he did a real nice job again.
Lewis, the fifth-round pick from Pitt, had 15 carries for 62 yards while playing just the first half. He also had three catches for 38, and returned two kickoffs for 57.
The Eagles as a team rushed 16 times for 67 yards in the first half, but managed just 57 yards on 27 carries thereafter.
When you give a guy who has that much talent a hole and an opportunity to run, you know hes going to do good things, Watkins said of Lewis. The offensive line, we were clicking in the run game and its good to see he was able to get through those holes like that.
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