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Jeff Stoutland has been fairly complimentary of Danny Watkins. When he was first hired as the Eagles’ offensive line coach, Stoutland called Watkins “a winner” and predicted the guard would compete for a starting job. And late last week, Stoutland said Watkins has “put a lot of time into trying to learn the system.”
All of that might be true, but Watkins learned the system with the second team on Monday. While rain fell on the NovaCare Complex practice fields during OTAs, Allen Barbre took snaps at left guard with the first team.
“I ran all the reps with the ones last Wednesday, too,” Barbre said. “It’s early. I think we’re all just out there trying to show what we can do.”
Barbre is right, of course. Even in an NFL offseason saturated with OTAs, mini-camps and training camp, May still qualifies as early for football players attempting to secure jobs. For Watkins, however, falling behind even for a moment, even in May, could portend unwelcome consequences.
Watkins -- who was hampered by an ankle injury last year -- played poorly in his second NFL campaign and didn’t start a game after Week 7. The 28-year-old called last season “a bit of a drag." He also recently admitted that he struggled under former offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and he added that he welcomed the opportunity to play in Stoutland’s system, which he called “more of a conventional offense in the pass protection and run progression.”
Watkins, like the rest of the Eagles, has been told by the coaching staff that there is no depth chart. For the moment, that might be the case -- but certain players still take snaps with the first team offense. On Monday (and also last week), Barbre was included in that group while Watkins was not.
"When I got here on January 16th, it didn't matter to me if you were a first round pick or an undrafted free agent," Chip Kelly said. "It's about putting the best team on the field. Where they got picked in the past or those things, it was a clean slate with us coming in. It's a clean slate with [Watkins].
The Eagles signed Barbre (6-4, 310) in January to add depth to an offensive line that was hampered by various injuries all last season. Barbre was initially taken by the Packers in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. In his first three seasons in Green Bay, he played in 25 games and started seven, but the Packers released him in 2010 as part of the team’s final roster cutdown.
Barbre played seven games with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and 2011. He also signed with the Miami Dolphins for a brief period in 2010. Barbre didn’t play in the NFL last season. On Monday, Barbre downplayed the ongoing competition for starting offensive line jobs.
“I’d help someone if they were in front of me,” Barbre said. “If I knew something that they didn’t, I’ll help them out. We’re all out there working hard.”