May 4, 2011, 1:52 PM EDT
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.
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