End could be near for 1st-round bust Watkins

End could be near for 1st-round bust Watkins

August 30, 2013, 7:00 am
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Danny Watkins, seen here earlier this preseason, started 12 games as a rookie in 2011 but only six last year. (USA Today Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD – Jerome McDougle. Antone Davis. Freddie Mitchell. Bernard Williams. Jon Harris. Leonard Renfro.

Are we about to add Danny Watkins’ name to the Eagles’ first-round scrap heap?

Sure sounds likely.

Watkins, the aging firefighter-turned-offensive lineman, does not appear likely to survive this weekend’s final cuts, at least judging from coach Chip Kelly’s lukewarm comments about Watkins Thursday night.

“Danny is competing, just like the rest of those guys up front,” Kelly said after the Eagles finished the preseason with a 27-20 loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium (see Instant Replay).

“There's always really some good out of Danny, but there's also some mistakes out of Danny. So it's gonna be a battle when you feel good about your [starting] five.

“Then where are we going to be and how many are we going to carry? That is what it's going to come down to.”

A battle? Interesting choice of words, considering all the preseason practices and games are over. The only battle remaining is the roster battle, and Kelly hardly gave Watkins a vote of confidence in that competition.

Final cuts to 53 are due by 6 p.m. Saturday, although it’s likely the Eagles will cut a bunch of players Friday afternoon.

The Eagles currently have 11 offensive linemen on the roster, and that number will likely be reduced to 10 –- five starters and five backups.

Not only has Watkins not performed at a consistent level, but his lack of versatility is also a problem. Although he came to the Eagles with the notion that he would one day become a tackle, he hasn’t taken reps at tackle since 2011.

Meanwhile, backups such as Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin have the ability to play both guard and tackle, and Julian Vandervelde can play both center and guard.

Kelly said last week that versatility is paramount for backups, especially at a position like offensive line.

“When you talk about backup guys, they have to have versatility,” he said. “If you're talking about making the 46‑man roster, that versatility part is huge for guys that are not the starters.”

And Watkins is clearly a non-starter.

He started 12 games as a rookie in 2011 but only six last year, finishing the season buried on the bench behind unheralded Dennis Kelly and then midseason street pickup Jake Scott.

It was thought a change from offensive line coach Howard Mudd –- who Watkins never clicked with –- to the more traditional Jeff Stoutland would help. But Watkins never challenged Todd Herremans for the starting right guard spot and didn’t separate from the younger, less heralded linemen in camp.

Despite only going into his fourth season, Watkins turns 29 years old in November. Nobody has ever questioned Watkins’ size and strength, but he never seemed to embrace the game of football, which he didn’t play until he was 22 years old.

Watkins is due $1,096,450 in base salary this year, and that base salary is actually guaranteed, so the Eagles will have to pay Watkins $64,497 per week during the season even if they do release him. His $1,357,175 base salary in 2014 is not guaranteed.