Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Whatever players were on the board at 23, whether right guard was the biggest need or not, there is one simple way to break down the Eagles' first round pick this year. If Danny Watkins is starting Week 1, it was the right call.

Was it the sexy pick? Far from it. Colorado's Jimmy Smith could have filled the enormous hole at cornerback. Instead, the big, physical corner went four picks later to the Ravens. Coming out of a veritable offensive lineman factory in Wisconsin, Gabe Carimi could have protected Mike Vick's blindside for years to come. The Bears nabbed him at 29. My personal preference and local product Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the interior pass rusher the Birds' defensive line so desperately needs. The 30th overall selection will play for Rex Ryan in New York.

Here's the thing: while any of those guys would have filled a need on paper, would they be ready to do it this year? Maybe, maybe not, but Watkins is projected to start immediately. In fact, the Eagles are counting on it. Described by some draft analysts as the most NFL-ready of the offensive linemen, the team anticipates he can show up and do the job.

What more can you ask for from your first round pick in his rookie season?

Of course, there is that whole age thing again. Already 26 years old, the obvious knock is a shorter career expectancy. By the time he reaches the end of his rookie contract, Watkins could be 32-years-old, right about the time when the Eagles' front office parts ways with many veterans. That's not exactly ancient for a lineman, but it's reason enough for pause.

Beyond that, Watkins was literally a man among boys at Baylor. His advanced age has prompted some concerns over the evaluation process. Sure, he manhandled college kids, athletes often four or five years his junior, in many cases still developing. How will that translate against professionals, guys whose job description includes lifting weights rather than books?

His age is a big reason why it's so important he's on the field right away. The Eagles don't have time to bring some rookie along. He better be pro ready, or not only will right guard continue to be a problem area, but they lose valuable years with Watkins at a time when most young players would be entering or perhaps already in their prime.

Assuming reports are correct though, and the first round pick is up to speed whenever this season finally kicks off, imagine what it could mean for the Birds in 2011. Upon Jamaal Jackson's return from a torn biceps muscle, they will have solidified the unit from left tackle to right guard with a single move, leaving Winston Justice the lone question mark. And while you can make the case right tackle becomes the most vital position with a left-handed quarterback, how much easier will life be on that island with any kind of presence next door?

But he has to play, it's that simple. If he does that much, and on par with his status as a first rounder, how can you knock the selection? Okay, Watkins is still a fossil compared to every other rookie, which at the very least clouds his future.

At the end of the day, it was a results-oriented choice. Smith, Carimi, Wilkerson, whoever; maybe one or two have an impact this year, maybe not. With Watkins, apparently there was no guess work.

Herremans Moving to Tackle?

After the selection of Watkins, several members of the media suggested the Eagles could plug him in at left guard, and kick Todd Herremans out to right tackle. On Tuesday, Andy Reid indicated he "probably" wouldn't move Herremans outside.

"Right now, that’s probably not going to happen. He’s probably going to be playing guard and Danny will be playing guard."

In theory, the shuffle makes sense. Herremans was originally a tackle in college, and he has filled in there for the Birds before. Watkins would take his place at left guard, while either incumbent Max Jean-Gilles would return on the right, or Mike McGlynn could slide over from center. Obviously, the latter is predicated on Jamaal Jackson making a full recovery.

While that may look appealing on paper, it's probably overthinking the situation a bit.

My biggest issue with moving Herremans now is destroying the continuity he and left tackle Jason Peters have built the past two years. The offensive line has really struggled in that aspect, and shaking up the entire unit could prove more detrimental than anything else. Plus, Herremans just had arguably his best season as a pro, as he and Peters have legitimately quieted their critics.

Furthermore, while Herremans has been their most consistent lineman, he hasn't played tackle on a fulltime basis in the NFL. That's not to say he can't do it, and he might be an improvement over Winston Justice either way, but it is a gameble nonetheless.

For now, we expect Herremans to remain at left guard, with Watkins penciled in at right. Of course, Reid has been known to say one thing one day, and do the exact opposite the next. And for what it's worth, the head coach didn't say anything at all about which guard position Herremans would play.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Tommy Joseph won it with a single up the middle with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. The hit scored Aaron Altherr, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Phils have won just six of their last 27 games. Joseph has had a walk-off, game-winning hit in the last two wins.

In addition to Joseph, who also homered, the star of the game was the Phillies' bullpen. Four Phils' relievers combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff exited. The Phillies' bullpen is riding a 19 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up a bunt hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters of the game but took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and a one-out RBI double in that inning as the Reds tied the game at 3-3.

Veteran Bronson Arroyo, back in action at age 40 after recovering from surgery the last two seasons, gave up three runs — all on solo homers — over five innings.

Bullpen report
Good work by Edubray Ramos to get two outs in the sixth to strand a runner in scoring position and preserve a 3-3 tie. Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each followed with a scoreless inning. Neris struck out dangerous Joey Votto on a splitter with a man on base to end the top of the ninth. He got the win.

Austin Brice pitched two scoreless innings for the Reds. Michael Lorenzen took the loss. He gave up two hits in the ninth. Joseph's game-winning hit came on a 97 mph heater.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all clouted solo homers for the Phillies. Joseph has six homers in his last 21 games.

Zack Cozart smacked a two-run homer against Eickhoff in the first inning. The Reds tied the game on a one-out double by Scooter Gennett in the sixth.

Remembering Bunning
Jim Bunning died Friday night. Larry Bowa recalled the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his career (see story).

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) and Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99) are the pitchers.

Soul hold off Valor in 48-47 win, remain unbeaten on the season

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Soul hold off Valor in 48-47 win, remain unbeaten on the season

The Soul on Saturday survived a late scare and moved to 7-0 on the season with a 48-47 win over the Washington Valor at Verizon Center.

With 41 seconds left, the Valor scored a touchdown and appeared poised to tie up the game. However, a fumbled snap led to a failed extra-point attempt and the Soul promptly recovered the ensuing onside kick.

"It’s hard to win a game in arena football, but we'll take them any way we can," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel told the team's official website. "We are definitely happy with 7-0 and looking forward to this bye week to get healed up and ready to finish the second half of the season." 

Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh led the way with 148 passing yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Ryan McDaniel led the team with four receptions, racking up 49 yards, while Darius Reynolds had 54 yards on three receptions. Each receiver reeled in two touchdown catches while Shaun Kauleinamoku accounted for the fifth score.

Running back Mykel Benson ran in a one-yard touchdown while Chirs Duvalt returned a kickoff 58 yards for a touchdown before halftime.

The Soul have a bye week before returning to the Wells Fargo Center on June 10 to face the Cleveland Gladiators.