The Eagles headed into the 2011 Draft needing a CB and RG. The Eagles had spent the offseason doing a lot of work on CB Jimmy Smith. I’ve been told by multiple sources that he was the team’s #1 target heading into the draft. I was told yesterday that the team pulled Smith off the board. Why? What happened?
Smith was a scary prospect. There is no question about that. He’s got elite talent, but has some serious character issues that made multiple teams pull him off the draft board. I’m guessing the Eagles stuck with him because he was such a player of need. After all, you are willing to take risks when you are desperate. After the recent rulings from Judge Susan Nelson it has become likely that there will be an offseason, and sooner rather than later. This had to have changed the dynamics of the Eagles plans.
For them to change their mind on Smith means the team has targeted some veteran CBs through trade or free agency that they feel can be acquired. Teams aren’t allowed to talk deals right now, but maybe there were some discussions at the Combine or owners meetings. The Eagles wouldn’t change their mind on Smith if they didn’t feel confident about landing a good RCB.
Smith was a player that I coveted for the Eagles, but not without reservations. My attitude was always that I’m okay with him if they’re willing to spend the pick on him. I’m okay with passing on him if that’s what they do. The Eagles did a lot of research. They are as thorough as any organization out there. I trust them when it comes to who they take and pass on because of character. I might disagree with who they pick, but it won’t be for character reasons. The Eagles knew Smith was a major risk. They felt he was worth it for a while, but obviously changed their minds. As long as they land a quality veteran CB, I’m fine with that.
The one thing to keep in mind about Smith is that rookie CBs struggled a lot last year. That was a concern for me as well. Kareem Jackson started for 3 years at Alabama. He faced elite competition. He played for a tough coach in an NFL system. Jackson was one of the worst starting CBs in the entire NFL last year. Kyle Wilson was also a talented, veteran college corner who struggled mightily. He lost his job as the #3 CB. Rookies don’t always handle the first year so well.
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I heard the Eagles did discuss taking Da’Quan Bowers at 23. I’m glad they passed. It was probably wise to have the discussion because of how talented Bowers is, but we’ve had terrible luck with guys with bad knees. I’m not willing to gamble pick 23 on an iffy knee. Plus, I didn’t think Bowers was a great fit for Jim Washburn’s scheme. You also throw in the fact Bowers only had 1 great year at Clemson. Too many question marks to make him a smart pick.
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Back to Danny Boy. We knew the Eagles liked him. They spent a lot of time with Danny at the Senior Bowl and showed a lot of interest. This is a player that I’m sure Howard Mudd was in love with. I never projected Danny to the Eagles because I didn’t think they would take him at 23 (due to the age) and I saw no way for him to last long in the 2nd round.
The age issue is a major downer. No 2 ways about that. Him being 26 going on 27 is something that will keep me from being in love with the pick. That said, we do have to understand something about the age. The fact he’s 26 right now is actually a good thing for the 2011 Eagles. Watkins is a man. He’s mature. He’s focused. He won’t go to Training Camp worried about his X-box or what kind of car he’s going to buy. Watkins will be all about business.
The age factor really only becomes a negative when we get to his second contract. Most players are ascending or just hitting their prime when it is time to negotiate. Danny will either be at the tail end of the prime of his career or will be descending. That doesn’t mean he can’t play and still be a solid starter, but those will be some odd negotiations.
The guy we’re getting right now is a “heckuva” player and he’s ready to roll. He will come in and compete for the starting RG spot right away. I say compete because he does have to earn the job. Nothing is given to a rookie. DeSean Jackson began as a backup. Almost immediately people could see that label wouldn’t last long. He was so good that he moved to the top of the depth chart quickly. He’s been there ever since.
The battle for RG will be between Mike McGlynn and Watkins. They are basically the same size. Mike played more in college. Mike has starting NFL experience. The difference is really talent. Danny is just more gifted. He’s very coachable so I expect him to adjust quickly to playing RG and in our system. Danny was a LT at Baylor, but played G at the Senior Bowl. He got better each day and then played well in the game. You could see him learning every day. He didn’t repeat mistakes. He listened when the coaches talked to him.
Here is my write-up on Watkins from the Senior Bowl practices:
Danny Watkins — The Ancient Mariner. He’s almost 26 1/2. Cut him open and count the rings. Still, he showed that he can play. Had to make the transition from LT to OG. Looked good, whether at RG or LG. Showed good hand punch. Moved well laterally. Still finished his blocks and had the nasty edge that he blocked with at Baylor. Can you take a guy this old in the 2nd round?
You can see where my mind was at with the last comment. I really liked Watkins, but how do you factor in age? The scout who helped me out years ago had been brought up in the system where 24 was the cutoff and only special guys could be that old and a decent pick. Players didn’t use to take as much care of their bodies so they really broke down around 30. Different times, different rules. Nutrition and fitness are huge for most players these days and it gives them a chance to last longer.
Here is my write-up on him after the Senior Bowl game:
WATKINS — LG. Had a great block of Ballard on early inside run. Doubled him at first, but then stuck with the block by himself until the whistle blew. Drove Ballard away from the scrum. Paved way for Ponder to get couple of yards on QB sneak on opening drive. Got a holding call when he was beaten to the inside by McClain. Moved to RG on next drive. Had a real good block of McClain in pass pro. Gave ground initially, but then re-set. Used his hands to keep McClain off his body. Had a good block of DT on draw play to give RB a clear running lane. The guy tried to go low and Danny put him on the ground and pushed him inside. Has excellent lateral agility. Works hard to mirror DTs when they try going hard inside or outside on him. Good block of Williams on pass play. Stuck with him until the QB scrambled. Good combo block on run to his side. Helped OT turn the DT, then got on the LB. Terrific block on GL run. Fired off the ball and got to Homan quickly. Gets off the ball well, but erratic on the 2nd level. Jordan split attempted double team by Watkins and RT and got RB on a play to his side. Good block on 4th Qtr run to his side. Got on the DT initially, then got on Homan and gave the runner space to get almost 5 yds.
We had a major hole at RG. Remember watching Nick Cole vs JAX and DET? I thought maybe he was trying to get revenge on Mike Vick for the dogfighting. Nick was a speed bump in those games. Max Jean-Gilles was better, but hardly a player you could count on to consistently block at a high level. McGlynn projects to being a solid RG. Danny Watkins has the potential to be outstanding. He is a natural pass blocker, which is critical in our offense. One of the biggest problems we had at RG was reading blitzes and stunts and then handling them. Danny is a bright guy so he should see things well. He has excellent lateral agility, which is crucial when sliding in or out to pick off a blitzer or DE looping inside.
If Jamaal Jackson hadn’t missed a game in 4 years, the Eagles might have felt good enough about McGlynn to let him be the RG. Unfortunately, JamJax has had injury issues in 2 straight years. McGlynn may have to play C at some point. If so, you don’t want to rely on MJG sliding in there. Add a top shelf RG like Watkins and improve the overall group.
Also, I’ve said this all offseason, but it bears repeating…Winston Justice will greatly benefit from having a good RG next to him. By adding Watkins, I truly believe you have upgraded RG and RT, which is critical for a pass happy team with a lefty QB.
This isn’t a slam dunk pick that can’t be questioned, but there is a lot of logic to it and it does make the Eagles a better football team instantly. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl in 2011 and Watkins helps put us on that path. We need Vick healthy. He is the key to this football team. Vick has all the weapons he needs. Protection was a different story. Watkins shores up the O-line and gives us a talented blocker for Vick and also helps our depth. Keep Vick healthy and give him more of a clean pocket and the offense will do their part in competing for a championship.
The defense will get their help on Day 2, Day 3, and with pro personnel moves.