Nothing cements a player’s bust status quite like the moment he’s released. The time came for Danny Watkins on Saturday as the Eagles trimmed their roster to 53 players in preparation for the regular season.
We knew going in to training camp that Watkins had virtually no opportunity to start. Birds head coach Chip Kelly kept nine offensive linemen on the roster altogether though, which means the 23rd-overall pick of the 2011 draft was beaten out by four others – all far less heralded players.
What’s probably most telling is the fact that Watkins’ base salary for this season – just north of $1 million – was fully guaranteed. In addition to paying him for nothing, the Eagles also have to pay the guy who’s taking his place.
Watkins showed signs of struggling almost immediately as a 26-year-old rookie. The Baylor product wasn’t ready to start until five games into his first professional season. Last year he lost his job at right guard around seven games into the campaign, though Andy Reid claimed Watkins’ absence in the lineup was due to a mysterious injury.
Just to give you an indication of the kind of company Watkins is in, Reuben Frank tells us the Baylor product became the first Eagles’ first-round pick to be released after just two seasons since defensive lineman Jon Harris in 1997.
With Watkins gone, that leaves Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Julian Vandervelde, and Jason Kelce on the roster from the ’11 draft – the Eagles made 11 picks that year. The only remaining players who have made meaningful contributions during their time in Philly are Henery and Kelce.
The Birds’ second-round pick in ‘11 was Jaiquawn Jarrett, who was cut after one week last season. Epic draft that was.
Of course, the subtraction of Watkins takes us one step further from the Reid era, while the Eagles getting down to 53 players puts us one step closer to the beginning of Chip’s time, which is a great thing. Cut-down day always feels like an unofficial starting point for the regular season, as the teams are finally getting close to their finished form.
Here’s a rundown of Kelly’s roster, but be warned: the Eagles likely aren’t finished making moves yet. Howie Roseman will scour the waiver wire after cut-down day for any upgrades to the back end of the roster. Other than that, this is pretty close to a final product.
No surprises here, unless you thought the Eagles were going to trade Foles. Given Vick’s extensive medical history and typically erratic performance from week-to-week, it makes sense to have a capable backup, and Barkley didn’t look ready. Dennis Dixon or G.J. Kinne could make for decent scout team quarterbacks.
Running back: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk (3)
Again, nothing earth-shattering. Matthew Tucker was one of the last to get the axe, and the undrafted rookie out of TCU had a good summer, so he could land on the practice squad should he clear waivers.
Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl (5)
Most of the spotlight was on Greg Salas and Russell Shepard competing for the fifth spot, but Maehl pulled out the upset. Or did he? The 24 year old seemed like an afterthought given he was signed two weeks into camp – not to mention lacks great size or athleticism – but coming from Oregon he does know Chip’s system. That said, the position could be a candidate for an immediate upgrade once teams are finished with their cuts. As for Salas, Shepard, and Ifeanyi Momah, all possibilities for the practice squad.
Tight end: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Emil Igwenagu (4)
Can’t believe Igwenagu made the team, beating out Clay Harbor at that. The converted fullback does contribute on special teams though, which may have given him the edge.
Offensive line: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin (9)
Barbre acquitted himself okay at left tackle while Peters was nursing a hamstring, and he can play guard, too. Vandervelde is the backup center almost by default. Tobin is the guy to keep an eye on here. The 6’6”-303 lb. rookie tackle out of Iowa drew the praise of his head coach after the fourth preseason game, and in carrying him the Eagles risk Michael Bamiro not clearing waivers so they can stash him on the scout team. They must really like Tobin a lot.
Very solid bunch with a lot of interchangeable parts. Didn’t have to cut anybody loose, which is nice. Next thing here that will be interesting is how long Sopoaga can hold on to his job. He’s been invisible in games so far.
Outside linebacker: Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham (3)
Chris McCoy didn’t make the cut (possible practice squad material?), which is surprising given two of these guys aren’t really linebackers. Can’t see the Eagles being able to get by with just three, and that’s with Cole’s and Graham’s limitations in mind, so expect another move to come.
Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Mychael Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Emmanuel Acho, Jake Knott (5)
Acho and Knott played too well during the preseason to let go, and Matthews was fine while also pitching in on special teams. Could be a very deep group.
Cornerback: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Jordan Poyer (6)
Hughes and Marsh stuck despite the both of them being out with a fractured hand, not to mention demonstrating little to be confident about – wouldn’t be surprised if one gets their walking papers once an outside linebacker becomes available. At least the top three are healthy and seem reasonably reliable.
Safety: Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson (5)
David Sims was the odd man out here. Would feel a lot more comfortable if Kenny Phillips had been able to beat the injury bug, but looks like the Birds will have to make do with Allen, Coleman, and Wolff opposite Chung. Anderson is still a tremendous special teamer.
Specialists: Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos (3)
Speaking of special teamers, there they are. Hey, look at these guys.
Injured reserve: WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Arrelious Benn, LB Jason Phillips, OLB Phillip Hunt, DE Joe Kruger (5)
The Eagles managed to slip Kruger, a seventh rounder, on their IR with a shoulder injury that he had previously played through. The big name here is Maclin obviously. He sure would make this squad look a lot better, wouldn’t he?