Roseman Talks McBriar Move, Dawkins Tribute

Howie Roseman shed some light on the decision to cut Chas Henry and sign veteran punter Mat McBriar.

The Eagles general manager revealed that they brought McBriar in Tuesday for a workout and noticed notable improvement in his kicks from the preseason. The 33-year-old McBriar is coming off an injury to his non-kicking foot.

“We did see a difference,” Roseman told the team’s website. “He seems healthier and he’s booming the ball now.”

Roseman said they decided to make the move because they are seeking more consistency.

While the Eagles are adding a two-time Pro Bowler to the roster, there is some concern how the move will affect kicker Alex Henery. Special teams coach Bobby April has suggested  that Henery was not at his sharpest early because he bounced between different holders this preseason.

“Working with two holders is never really great because there’s adaptions and adjustments that you have to make sort of on the fly,” said April after the Cleveland game. “You can develop a couple of deals, not that it was anybody’s fault,  Chas’  or  Mat’s. It’s just the fact that they were different holders and he’s the guy adjusting to them.”

One theory is that Henry won a close competition with McBriar because he was the better holder.

“Chas is a heck of a holder but Mat was a successful holder for the Cowboys for a long time,” said Roseman. “We have confidence in his ability to do that. We have a full week leading up to the Giants game to get him more experience, and obviously he had some experience with Alex during training camp.”

Roseman also was asked about the tribute to Brian Dawkins coming up on Sunday night.

“It’s so exciting to honor Dawk and to see him come this game, playing the Super Bowl champs, on our home turf,” said Roseman. “You’re talking about one of, if not the greatest, player in Eagles history. Hall-of-Fame player. Someone that when we scout players, we’re looking for someone that can be that kind of guy: that kind of leader, that kind of player.”

Dawkins’ No. 20 jersey will officially be retired during a 6 o’clock press conference prior to the game Sunday in the HeadHouse Plaza lobby area at Lincoln Financial Field. Ticket holders are invited to attend, though space is extremely limited and those in attendance will not be permitted to return outside the gates once the press conference is complete. Dawkins will be honored on the field and will address the fans during a halftime ceremony as well.

Eagles Release Henry, Add McBriar

Three weeks into the season, the Eagles have cut ties with punter Chas Henry and added veteran Mat McBriar.

Henry beat McBriar out at training camp. He started the season out with what special-teams coach Bobby April called “by far” the best game of his career against the Browns, but Henry turned in a dud in Week 2 against the Ravens.

“He doesn’t drop the ball consistently,” April said last week. “He’s got a little bit of a technical flaw where he has a habit of either throwing his little finger in or his thumb out. It causes the drop of the ball not to be correct. It’s something he knows that he constantly works on. It’s just something in there that he’s got to get out of.”

Henry had a better game against the Cardinals, but apparently, the coaching staff feels McBriar is a better option going forward.

McBriar spent eight seasons with the Cowboys and was a two-time Pro Bowler, last earning the honor in 2010. He had offseason surgery to remove a cyst in his left leg that had caused him trouble with his plant foot.

In addition to punting, he’ll be counted on to hold for Alex Henery on field goals, something which seemed to be a bit of a concern in the preseason.

“I think it’s always big,” April said earlier this month.

“I feel pretty confident that he [Henry] was a little bit better holder. Not much, not much, but he had a little more nimbleness and dexterity with the ball. He was a little bit better setting it down and he got it down a little quicker. He gave Alex a little more opportunity to see it longer. It was a factor for sure. Mat is a good holder, but I just think that Chas is just a little bit better.”

The Eagles also made a practice-squad move, signing long snapper Kyle Nelson and releasing wide receiver Jeremy Ebert. Jon Dorenbos suffered a high-ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, and his status going forward is unknown.

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Eagles Special Teams a Major Factor Vs. Cardinals

Philadelphia Eagles punter Chas Henry.Had the Eagles lost Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Bobby April’s special-teams unit would have fielded its share of the blame this week.

Looking ahead to the matchup against the Cardinals, special teams very well could determine the difference between a win and a loss.

Let’s start with the punter. A week after making the Eagles look smart for choosing him over Mat McBriar, second-year player Chas Henry had major issues against the Ravens.

Here’s what his five punts looked like:

No. 1: A 56-yarder that Jacoby Jones caught at the Ravens’ 7 and returned 18 yards to the 25.

No. 2: A 32-yarder that was downed by the Eagles and gave Baltimore possession at its own 43.

No. 3: A 38-yarder that was returned 10 yards and gave the Ravens possession at the Eagles’ 38. This one was particularly costly, as the Ravens ran one play before kicking a 56-yard field goal at the end of the half.

No. 4: A 40-yarder that was returned 6 yards and gave Baltimore possession at its own 41.

No. 5: A 30-yarder that was fair caught at the Ravens’ 22.

Like I said, not a good day. But what was the issue? After all, Henry has never looked better than he did Week 1 against the Browns.

“He doesn’t drop the ball consistently,” April said. “He’s got a little bit of a technical flaw where he has a habit of either throwing his little finger in or his thumb out, and it causes the drop of the ball not to be correct. It’s something that he constantly works on, and it’s just something in there that he’s got to get out of. And for our team, he’s got to get out of it yesterday.

“It’s just something that rises up. It’s a thing that comes into play. I’m not sure why it comes into play and what makes it come into play on some punts, and what makes it not come in to play on other punts, but it’s something that he has to work at.”

The Eagles’ punt coverage unit faces a huge challenge Sunday going against arguably the league’s most dangerous return man in Patrick Peterson. Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns last season, tying an NFL record.

“He’s really talented because he’s so big,” April said. “It would be like if we had DeMeco Ryans back there returning punts. And he’s fast, so what happens, he breaks a lot of tackles where a lot of guys would go down. The coverage would stop him, but he runs through it, and he barely gets dinged.”

April, of course, is exaggerating a bit. Peterson measured at 6-0, 219 last season, while Ryans is at 6-1, 247, but you get the point.

So far this season, Akeem Jordan leads the Eagles with four special-teams tackles. Curtis Marsh and Casey Matthews each have three. Brandon Hughes has been the first man down in coverage on six occasions, tops on the team. Brian Rolle, Jordan and Colt Anderson have each gotten there four times. That’s particularly impressive for Anderson, who didn’t play in the first game.

One other area to keep an eye on is the Eagles’ field-goal unit. Alex Henery has made two of three attempts this year – hitting on a 23-yarder and a 42-yarder, while missing a 45-yard attempt in Week 1. The Cardinals have the best field-goal block team in the league. Last year, they blocked five of them. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, they’ve blocked 11 field goals in the past three seasons. The average team has less than one field goal block per season.

The unit is led by Calais Campbell, the 6-foot-8 defensive end, who blocked three field goals last year.

“They believe that they’re going to get it,” April said. “You can tell by the way they play. They believe they’re going to get it. So that’s their greatest thing. Certainly he’s [Campbell] a factor in there, but the other real factor is Patrick Peterson. He comes off that edge. Man, he is really a good player.”

Peterson had the other two field-goal blocks for the Cardinals in 2011. And April said Adrian Wilson is a factor too.

The Eagles’ first two games were each decided by a point. If that’s the case again Sunday, special teams could make the difference.

Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappEight days from now, the Eagles will have to trim their roster to 53 players.

The official date and time is Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

That means this is the final trial run for me and McManus. Next week, we’ll have to submit our final projections. Here’s what I’ve got as of Thursday morning. T-Mac will reveal his projections on Friday.

And to switch things up. I’ve provided my confidence level for each group. Nothing scientific here – just a 1-10 ranking, with 1 signifying I am completely guessing here and 10 meaning Mark it down. These are locks.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.
Confidence level: 9

This one is pretty much set in stone. While quarterback is a question mark – with Vick suffering injuries in each of the Eagles’ first two preseason games – these will be the three guys on the 53-man roster. If Trent Edwards was going to be given a real shot, I think it would have happened by now.

The question is: Can Foles beat out Kafka for the backup job? As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible. But as Paul Domowitch of the Daily News pointed out today, the Eagles could keep all three quarterbacks active on gamedays and not designate a backup. I can just see it now: Andy Reid answering a hypothetical question about who would potentially go in for an injured Vick with, “Well, we’ll just see there.”

I took a look, and last year, the Eagles had three quarterbacks active in eight of 16 games. Some of that had to do with injuries to Vick and Vince Young though.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.
Confidence level: 9

Havili made a move in the last preseason game with a nice 14-yard run, a decent lead block on McCoy’s touchdown and an outstanding special-teams tackle. The Eagles could still add a fullback once teams cut down their rosters, but Havili has the edge for now.

Brown flashed big-time vs. the Patriots with a 27-yard run up the middle. He’s shown upside, and the Eagles won’t be willing to let other teams have a shot at him. Brown can play special teams as a rookie, hone his skills and work to be a contributor down the road.

Lewis is still the favorite to spell McCoy or fill in if he gets injured. He knows the offense and has looked capable in blitz pick-up during the preseason.

I’m not seeing a spot for Polk. Brown has a clear edge over him as a runner at this point. The Eagles have some roster flexibility, and if they really like Polk, they could probably find a way to keep him. He could land on IR or the practice squad (only if another team doesn’t sign him).

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt.
Confidence level: 6

The first four names above are locks. After that, there’s some indecision.

I still am confident that Johnson makes it, but he’s dropped passes in each of the first two preseason games and fumbled a punt against New England. The Eagles need him to be reliable on special teams.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He’s shown nothing as a receiver in the first two preseason games, and it doesn’t look like he’d be able to contribute if the Eagles needed him offensively.

Then again, that sixth wide receiver is likely to be inactive on gamedays. If the Eagles saw enough potential in McNutt to draft him in April, the guess here is that they’ll hold on to him for now.

As for Chad Hall, friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out over at Iggles Blitz that he’s still practice-squad eligible. If Cooper isn’t ready to go in Week 1 (recovering from surgery for a fractured collarbone), perhaps Hall would get the nod over McNutt. But I don’t think he gives you enough as a fourth wide receiver to justify that spot.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Confidence level: 10

I don’t see it going any other way. The Eagles have no need for a third tight end, and neither Brett Brackett nor Chase Ford has stood out this summer.

Harbor, on the other hand, had a great camp, caught all six balls thrown his way Monday night and got in the end zone twice. He could see a bump in playing time in the regular season.

Offensive linemen (9): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos.
Confidence level: 4

Pretty much every day at training camp, Bo Wulf of would come up to me and make some type of Steve Vallos reference. “Look at that snap!” or “Great block by Vallos!” he’d say. Why? Because Wulf and Vallos share a bond as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and apparently Bo has a lot of school pride.

Dallas Reynolds is still listed as the second-team center, but Vallos played there on Monday night and has started eight NFL games in his career. Right now, he gets the nod.

Given everything else that’s happened this preseason, the issue of offensive line depth has been largely ignored. I’m convinced the Eagles are going to make some moves here after teams cut their rosters to 53. We’ll get a look at Kelly Friday night, but if Bell isn’t good enough to start, chances are he’s not going to be reliable as a backup either.

Depth at guard and center is a major concern, especially considering that Kelce is taking on more responsibility this year with line calls. Reynolds and Mike Gibson are still in the mix, but my guess is those spots get filled with guys not currently on the roster.

By the way, if I had to wager right now on who the left tackle would be Week 1, my money’s on Dunlap.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon.
Confidence level: 6

I strongly considered bumping Tapp and Dixon this week. Hunt is really coming on, and with Jenkins seeing snaps outside, Tapp is probably expendable. Dixon, meanwhile, just looks like a bad fit for Jim Washburn’s style and is showing very little as a pass rusher.

The problem? I didn’t really see anyone else on the roster worth keeping over either one of those guys. If the Eagles can get some kind of conditional pick in a trade for either Tapp or Dixon, I think they pull the trigger. If not, beef up the defensive line and cover yourself in case of injury. What are the odds all the defensive linemen in the rotation stay healthy from until Week 3 or 4? Not high.

Mike Patterson on PUP looks likely at this point. Reuben Frank of CSN Philly is reporting that Patterson’s already been ruled out for Week 1.

As for the rotation, the way things are currently constructed, Curry and either Dixon or Thornton would likely be inactive on gameday to start the season.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.
Confidence level: 7

Good sign for the Eagles linebackers: The way Kendricks is playing, it seems likely that he and Ryans will stay on the field in nickel situations to start the season. That should lead to less shuffling of personnel and less confusion, specifically when opposing offenses go no-huddle.

As we’ve discussed, Jordan and Keenan Clayton are battling for the final spot. Jordan gets the nod because of special teams. If the Eagles really like Clayton (and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest they do), he could make the team as a seventh linebacker, and they could keep one fewer defensive lineman.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson.
Confidence level: 5

This is a tough one. Boykin is pushing Hanson for that nickel job. But can he do enough in the next eight days to snatch it away? Important game for him coming up on Friday.

If Boykin wins the job, I see no need to keep Hanson, considering he’s not a factor on the outside.

Brandon Hughes has a shot to sneak on if the Eagles want experience on the outside. As for Cliff Harris, not sure if he’s healthy. Don’t think he played at all vs. the Patriots. Unless the Eagles want to give him the 53rd spot and concede that he won’t play as a rookie, but could contribute down the line, I think he’ll be cut.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Confidence level: 5

This is another area where the Eagles very well could add a player off another team’s roster before the season starts.

I kept Jarrett off last week, but now Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain, so the former second-round pick gets back on by default. Atogwe, meanwhile, didn’t play in Monday’s preseason game because of a hamstring injury. I have no clue at this point how effective he’d be if he had to go into a game. But again, not seeing other options here right now. Colt Anderson is not practicing yet and is still recovering from a torn ACL.

At the end of last season, I thought Coleman would have to hold off competition to remain a starter, but that hasn’t been the case. He and Allen, who played well vs. the Patriots, are clearly the first-team safeties.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.
Confidence level: 8

Both McBriar and Chas Henry punted better Monday night. Still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose though.

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10 Things To Watch: Eagles vs. Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight when the Eagles take on the Patriots in their second preseason game.

1. DeMeco Ryans – By most accounts, he’s not quite there yet. The leadership stuff has not been overblown. Ryans seems to be adored by coaches and respected by teammates. But the question is: How effective of a player is he at this point in his career? Despite failing to notch a tackle in the first game, Ryans was frequently around the football. Expecting him to go to the Pro Bowl is probably asking for a bit much, but the Birds need Ryans to be a quality, three-down player. He’ll look to continue to increase his comfort level tonight.

2. Nick Foles – The rookie needed just six completions to capture the imagination of fans in the first preseason game. With Mike Kafka sidelined because of a fractured left hand, Foles will be the first man up after Michael Vick is finished. A couple weeks ago, I would have said that Kafka was definitely the backup, and Foles would be watching and learning in his first season. Now? I’m not so sure. What happens if the rookie carves up the Patriots and then impresses again against the Browns on Friday? There seems to be at least a chance that he could steal the backup spot away.

3. Danny Watkins – I wrote about him in detail yesterday. While much of the focus is on the left tackle situation, the Eagles need Watkins to make a leap in his second season as the starter at right guard. Teammates and coaches seem to think things are clicking for Watkins after he had the benefit of a full offseason. He was only on the field for six plays in the first game, but will get a chance to show how he’s progressed in extended action tonight.

4. King Dunlap/Demetress Bell – Will the game of musical chairs at left tackle continue next week? Or will Dunlap hold onto the job? Bell has been running with the second team, and Dunlap will get the start vs. New England. Both players are in the spotlight, and one of them will often be charged with blocking the other teams’ best pass-rushers once the regular season starts. As long as Vick is in the game tonight, plugging a tight end or running back on that left side might not be a bad idea.

5. Looking for a fullback – The Eagles have a few options at fullback: Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu or a player to be named later (meaning the Birds sign a player who is currently on another team’s roster, but eventually gets cut). It’d be nice to see the current guys get some reps as lead blockers and receivers – two of the most important parts of playing the position in this offense.

And while it’s unlikely, just maybe we’ll see Chris Polk get a shot there. Marty Mornhinweg admitted last week that the team has at least discussed the idea of the rookie playing fullback.

6. Mychal Kendricks – The rookie linebacker will likely get matched up against tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (unless, of course, they don’t play). The Eagles were very good at covering opposing tight ends last year, and Kendricks looks like the favorite to play alongside Ryans in the nickel package. In the first game, despite a couple miscues, Kendricks showed flashes of being the athletic, play-making linebacker the Eagles have been searching for. Coaches, and fans, will want to see more of that tonight.

7. Nnamdi Asomugha – I’m not sure how much we’re going to see of the veteran cornerback, who suffered a lip laceration and sore neck last week. He said Saturday that it’s important for him to play tonight, but I got the sense that he’s going to be smart about this. If Asomugha feels any discomfort early on (or even in pre-game warmups), look for the Birds to play it safe and hold him out.

8. Jaiquawn Jarrett – He’s fighting desperately for a roster spot. Jarrett was one of the worst (if not, the worst) players on the field in the Eagles’ first preseason game. Poor angles, blown assignments, missed tackles. You name it, and we saw it from the second-year safety. He doesn’t need to be perfect, but he needs to show the coaches something for them to stick with him once September rolls around.

9. Michael Vick – It would be ideal for him to get through the game without any type of injury scare – that’s first and foremost. From a performance standpoint, Vick can’t really prove anything one way or another until the regular season starts. But the first-team offense would like to do a little better than last week’s back-to-back three-and-outs. Vick has admitted that he didn’t really understand the quarterback position until last year, and by all accounts, he’s been 100 percent invested this offseason. Reid, Mornhinweg and the fans would like to start to see some of the results from that hard work.

10. The punting battle – Granted, not the most exciting thing to watch, but the Eagles want the punting game to be a weapon that helps the defense this season. Neither Mat McBriar nor Chas Henry did much to distinguish themselves in the first game.

“I need more,” Andy Reid said last week. “I have to see more. I didn’t see anything that just jumped out to me.”

And don’t forget to watch how McBriar looks as a holder for Alex Henery, something he’ll be responsible for if he ends up winning the job.

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10 Things To Watch: Eagles vs. Steelers

Philadelphia Eagles undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson.Football in Philadelphia makes its long-awaited return tonight as the Eagles host the Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast locally on 6-ABC.

Tim and I will be there, and we’ll be hosting a live chat right here, so be sure to join us.

Meanwhile, here’s a cheat-sheet for you: 10 things to keep an eye on this evening.

1. Andy Reid – It’s been the toughest week of the coach’s career. As recently as last week, talk in this town centered around whether Reid would be coaching for his job in 2012. Since his son, Garrett, died Sunday morning, Reid and his family have been overwhelmed by support from the fans, the league and others.

I’ve noticed it too – talk-show callers, online commenters and so on. Those who are usually Reid’s harshest critics are now squarely in his corner. Eagles fans have had ups and downs with the coach over the last 13 years, but it’s clear that those in attendance at the Linc are going to do whatever they can tonight to support him. It should be a special moment when Reid first walks onto the field, or when his face is first shown on the big screen.

2. The return game – The Eagles got nothing from their punt and kickoff return units last year, as DeSean Jackson and Dion Lewis struggled to make things happen. To start the preseason, Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin will get a chance to lock down the punt and kickoff return jobs, respectively. Johnson, an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa, has a real shot to make the team with a strong preseason. Boykin will make the team regardless, but the Eagles want to see him stand out on kickoff returns. Remember, returns are difficult to simulate in practice without live hitting on special teams, so the preseason really is important here.

3. Bryce Brown/Chris Polk – I’d be surprised if Dion Lewis didn’t start the season as LeSean McCoy’s backup, but there’s still room for competition. After a stellar high school career, Brown ran into issues at both Tennessee and Kansas State. Consider this: Brown has carried the ball just three times in game action since November 28, 2009. That’s a span of nearly three years. There’s no doubt that the seventh-round pick is anxious to show what he can do, and he told me last week he’s on every special-teams unit right now, trying to find some way to make the team.

Polk, meanwhile, has started to come on. He had a 50-yard run last week and looks comfortable as a blocker and a receiver. There’s a small chance that both Brown and Polk make the team, but more likely, they are fighting for one roster spot.

4. Brandon Graham – The former first-round pick said he’s tired of talking and ready to show what he can do. He’s had a solid training camp, and with Trent Cole and Jason Babin sidelined, Graham will get plenty of reps early on vs. the Steelers. He had three sacks and 13 hurries as a rookie, but battled injuries (and his weight) last season. Graham won’t really prove anything until the real games begin, but tonight is another step in the process.

5. Boykin vs. Hanson – The Eagles know what they have in Joselio Hanson , a player who’s been with the team since 2006. They need to find out if Boykin can wrestle the nickel corner spot away from the veteran. If he can, Hanson will likely be cut. If he can’t, the Eagles will have to keep both corners and make a cut somewhere else. Boykin has looked good at Lehigh, but will need to prove himself in game action in the coming weeks.

6. McBriar vs. Henry – I realize a punter battle isn’t going to get anyone out of their seat, but the Eagles have plenty of room for improvement on special teams. Chas Henry was unimpressive as a rookie, and if Mat McBriar is healthy, he’s the favorite to win this job. On the Eagles’ official depth chart, McBriar iss listed as the No. 1 punter.

7. Demetress Bell – Filling in for Jason Peters will be no easy task. He’s certainly shown athleticism at training camp, but Howard Mudd needs to be comfortable with him by the time Week 1 rolls around. This will be Bell’s first game action. Pay special attention to running plays designed to go to the left side. The Eagles might even try a screen or two to that side to test his athleticism.

8. DeMeco Ryans – For the first part of training camp, he pretty much blended in with the group. But in recent practices, he’s started to show glimpses of the player the Eagles described when they acquired him from the Texans in the offseason. At Lehigh, Ryans has stayed on the field in nickel situations. Keep an eye on how he looks in coverage.

9. Jaiquawn Jarrett – Nate Allen won’t play, meaning Jarrett will get plenty of chances to show that he’s improved this offseason. The 2011 second-round pick  has had a few stand-out moments at training camp, but still needs to show that he’s not a liability in coverage. Oshiomogho Atogwe, who is more of a free safety, could mix in alongside Kurt Coleman as well.

10. Danny Watkins – He’s been a bit of a forgotten man this summer. Optimists point out that the Eagles’ offensive line could be better in 2012, even without Peters. The thinking is that second-year players Jason Kelce and Watkins will improve, and Todd Herremans, who was plugged in at right tackle just before the 2011 season started, will benefit from having played there for a full year. The spotlight for me is on Watkins. He played hesitant for much of his rookie year, and while Watkins had good moments as a run blocker, he struggled in pass protection. The Eagles need the former first-round pick to live up to expectations.

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