After being made inactive for three of the season's first four weeks, the Eagles' first round pick will finally be on the field this Sunday according to reports. Danny Watkins, who was touted by some draft analysts as the most NFL-ready lineman in this year's draft, will finally start at right guard against the Buffalo Bills. He replaces Kyle DeVan, who the team claimed off waivers shortly after cut-down day.
Watkins struggled during the preseason, and didn't look quite as prepared as we were promised, so the Eagles added DeVan as an insurance policy on September 4. Formerly a member of the Indianapolis Colts, offensive line coach Howard Mudd was familiar with the Oregon State product, who within days he was announced as the opening day starter.
Not surprisingly, DeVan has been the weak link in the offensive line. While he's not been completely ineffective either, he's part of the problem with an interior that hasn't been able to get any push at the goal line. In short, DeVan is a replacement level player who can generally give the quarterback a few seconds in pass protection, but isn't overwhelming anybody on the other side.
Which is why it's go-time for Watkins. We have no way of knowing if the big Canadian is ready or not, but the Eagles are 1-3, and in no position to wait around for him to develop. When he was selected number 23 overall in April, it was assumed the 26 year old would start immediately. In fact, whether he was a good choice or not was largely dependent on him having a positive impact right away.
Much has been made about this year's draft class not contributing so far, with Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett, and Curtis Marsh -- their first three picks in April -- all spending the first month inactive for the most part. You can give Jarrett and Marsh somewhat of a pass due to the lockout and some additional circumstances, but Watkins was sold to us like a used car that could be driven right off the lot.
While it obviously wouldn't be wise to label him a bust because he missed four games, Watkins needs to get in there and beef up the interior. The Eagles' struggles in the red zone have been crushing, particularly in their last two defeats, and you can't help but wonder if maybe they would have punched one or two more in behind big number 63 had he been ready.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for the Birds, and they're still trying to find their best 11 on both sides of the ball.
>> Eagles to start first-round pick Watkins [Wilmington News Journal]