Wake-Up Call: Coaches Remain High On Watkins
Much of the attention paid to Jaylen Watkins faded as the draft gave way to OTAs and minicamp.
The more that was learned about the Florida product after he was selected in the fourth round by the Eagles, the more expectations grew. A team captain who ran a 4.41 40 on a bad wheel that can play safety and corner? Some wondered if he could make a push for playing time from the jump.
Like many of his fellow rookies, though, the Florida product found himself working with the third team for most of the spring. Any thoughts of him skyrocketing up the depth chart were put on hold as he began negotiating the steep NFL learning curve.
While he may not have captured the headlines or flashed as much as, say, fellow corner Nolan Carroll this spring, the coaching staff remains optimistic that Watkins can have an impact in 2014 — though there is still plenty of work to be done.
“Obviously a very, very talented young man. He has great ball skills. [In early June] he made an unbelievable interception — probably one of the best interceptions that we had during the OTA program,” said assistant defensive backs coach Todd Lyght. “He’s still learning to work at the professional level. I think he needs to learn how to push himself out of his comfort zone. There will be times where he is cruising a little bit. I think mentally he thinks that he is working really hard but he still needs to push himself a little bit more. But he’ll grow into that because it’s difficult to come from the collegiate level and just get it right away. It takes some time but I think he’s a smart enough player where he’ll pick up everything really fast.”
Howie Roseman likened Watkins to Brandon Boykin back in May, noting that both would have had higher stock had they not been injured during the lead-up to the draft. Watkins was nursing a bad ankle at the combine and still ran a blazing 40-time. Chip Kelly referenced Boykin as well when discussing Watkins’ potential role on special teams.
“Running 4.41, that’s what you need from a gunner position. That’s why guys like Boykin are so successful out there because they have that speed element,” said Kelly. “Not only can they get off the jam but they can get down the field.
“I know Coach [Dave] Fipp was excited about him as a ‘teams’ player, being a gunner, being able to cover kickoffs. He’ll factor into that part of the game as well.”
Special teams is the way in. Acquiring a primary role on defense seems like a rather difficult feat. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the projected starters outside, Boykin mans the inside and Carroll is fighting for the primary reserve spot.
The Eagles would like to implement some more dime coverage this year, however, and Watkins could be a piece to that puzzle. Given that Watkins has the versatility to play a hybrid role, he could be called upon in certain subpackages. The coaching staff continues to see this as a real possibility.
“I see him being a major contributor on special teams and playing a role on the defensive side of the ball this year,” said Lyght.
Work towards that goal begins in earnest in just 17 days.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Josh does a great job exploring Bryan Braman‘s difficult journey that led him to Philadelphia.
Will Connor Barwin be used more as a pass-rusher this season? We take a look.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles were one of 11 teams in attendance to watch defensive lineman LaKendrick Ross work out Monday. Ross is eligible for the 2014 supplemental draft, which will be held this month. From PFT:
According to Lansky, Ross measured in at 6-foot-4 and 366 pounds on Monday…
Ross played just the 2012 season of college football at Virginia-Lynchburg before being ruled ineligible for 2013, his agent told PFT. He was slated to begin his collegiate career at Morgan State in 2011, but he never played for the school, according to Lansky.
Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports looks at the Eagles’ receiver situation from a fantasy perspective.
In two of the previous three seasons, Maclin was the best receiver for the Eagles, finishing with more Fantasy points than Jackson in 2010 — he was No. 12 that year — and 2012. He should be back on top this year. Cooper will start opposite Maclin, but he should struggle to repeat his stat line of 47 catches, 835 yards and eight touchdowns. Maclin has never had more than 70 catches or 965 yards in a season, but he could best those marks this year. And he once scored 10 touchdowns in 2010, with 22 touchdowns from 2010-11, so he knows how to find the end zone. Don’t think that Maclin is going to replace Jackson as a deep threat, but he’s a good route runner and receiver, which should help Foles. He’s a sleeper on Draft Day, and he’s someone I plan to target as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.
We’ll take a look at what the national media is saying about the Eagles.