Eagles Wake-Up Call: Big V’s Big Chance

Halapoulivaati Vaitai. (USA Today Sports)

Halapoulivaati Vaitai. (USA Today Sports)

Halapoulivaati Vaitai already has butterflies. He found out he would replace Lane Johnson as the Eagles’ starting right tackle Monday night, he first practiced with the other starters on Wednesday and he’ll play in his first NFL game on Sunday.

While the rookie fifth-round pick says he’ll be able to settle in after his first play against Washington this week, he’s already bubbling with excitement.

“It’s a good opportunity. I’m going to take it,” Vaitai, who goes by “Big V,” said. “It’s unfortunate for Lane, but that’s life. I got to be the next man up.” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Three Eagles Leftovers

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Here are three Eagles leftovers to get to:

1. LeSean McCoy was one of the few Eagles who spoke up in support of DeSean Jackson after the team released Jackson during the offseason. And earlier this week, he unveiled a pretty hilarious impression of the speedy wide receiver.

We never got to see what a Chip Kelly offense would look like with McCoy, Jackson and Jeremy Maclin all on the field at the same time. Maclin tore his ACL in the summer of 2013, and Jackson was gone by the time this season rolled around.

McCoy was asked about the prospects of Jackson and Maclin teaming up in Kelly’s offense.

“Just a lot of big plays, a lot of space, a lot of yards,” he said. “That’s what I would think. But you never know.” Read more »

Notes: Watkins, Playoff Odds And Graham


Some Eagles notes before we head to practice…

Emily Kaplan of The MMQB has an excellent feature up on Danny Watkins, his career with the Eagles and why he’s currently out of the league. Watkins’ failure as a player still irks his former offensive line coach, Howard Mudd: Read more »

Watkins Responds To Roseman’s ‘Toughness’ Comments

Danny Watkins signed a new deal with the Dolphins and met with the Miami-area media today.

He was asked to respond to comments made by Howie Roseman about how Watkins’ toughness never translated from college to the NFL.

“I got to Philadelphia and it was just a rough go from the get-go,” Watkins said, per the Miami Herald. “I felt like it just got broken down to bones and never got built back. It was more a mental thing. I was very disappointing to myself that it never panned out the way it could. Because I know I can play physical and tough football but it just never … I think it was more a mental aspect than anything.”

Here are Roseman’s initial comments:

“When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.”

I would agree with Watkins that his issues were more mental than anything else. Even though he was 26 when he came out of Baylor, he only had two full years of D-1 experience under his belt. Watkins started camp late as a rookie and never seemed to click with Howard Mudd.

When he got on the field, there were way too many missed assignments, specifically in pass protection.

The physical aspect shouldn’t be overlooked either. Watkins turns 29 in November and will be 30 during the 2014 regular season.

He has more hurdles ahead, but will try to bank on a fresh start now in Miami.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Labor Day Reading: Examining the Roster Moves

The Eagles will probably make some moves in the near future here, whether it be to fill out their practice squad or tweak their 53-man. We’ll have that all covered. In the meantime, some reading for you on this rainy Labor Day:

John Gonzalez writes that the most recent cuts have further wiped away Andy Reid‘s fingerprints.

All those years of pass-first/run-seldom football under Reid have been essentially wiped away. Only 10 players currently on the roster arrived before 2010: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin (on injured reserve), Jason Avant, Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Brent Celek, and Jon Dorenbos. Countless others, close to half the roster, didn’t land in Philadelphia until 2012 or later. Whatever ties the Eagles had to Reid have been all but undone.

“We have 19 rookies or first year players,” Roseman said. “That’s exciting for us. We talk about building a program and taking steps and doing things the right way. I think that’s a group that can grow with us here and hopefully a lot of them are with us for a long time.”

Build a program. Do things the right way. Grow together. Stay together for a long time. Roseman was talking about the future, but he simultaneously managed to bury what was left of the past.

Peter King had a couple Eagles-related thoughts in his Monday Morning Quarterback column. One was on Danny Watkins.

What a disaster the Eagles’ 2011 first-round firefighter, Danny Watkins, turned out to be. Good example of reaching for a guy who never really loved the game. Watkins never played football until he was 22.

The other on recently-released linebacker Adrian Robinson, now with the Broncos.

Linebacker Adrian Robinson joined his third team in 10 days Sunday. He was dealt from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia Aug. 22, then got cut by the Eagles Saturday, and claimed by Denver Sunday. Robinson should either be a special-teams staple, or a weekly decision whether he’s active for Denver.

Jeff McLane thinks some of the roster decisions run counter to a principle that Howie Roseman has been stressing.

Wide receivers Greg Salas and Russell Shepard were cut and Jeff Maehl survived. Tight end Clay Harbor was waived and Emil Igwenagu remained. And outside linebacker Chris McCoy was sent packing and inside linebacker Casey Matthews stuck around.

“When Chip talked about the versatility at the back of the roster we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills,” Roseman said on Saturday. “So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster. Maybe some guys that played well in the preseason, but maybe they were duplicating the skills of some of the guys that we had. It didn’t make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things.”

In theory, and possibly in practice, Roseman’s explanation makes sense. You want versatile players on your roster that can handle multiple tasks, especially if they’re one of 46 players that dress on Sundays. Kelly has stressed this attribute since arriving. It’s certainly been a concern for the coach, who had countless players at his disposal at Oregon. But it seems to run contrary to the philosophy Roseman has touted for two years — take and keep the best players.”

And finally, Tommy Lawlor takes a look at new Eagles corner Shaun Prater:

Prater isn’t some great player, but he can be an ideal #4 CB. He started for 3 years at Iowa. All Hawkeyes CBs are legally required to tackle well and play hard. Prater played on the outside in college. The Bengals drafted him last year and played him both in the slot and outside. He goes about 5-10, 190. That’s not ideal size for Bill Davis, but is big enough. And Prater does play bigger than he is.

If one of the starters goes down, the Eagles could move Boykin outside and then play Prater in the slot. Or he could just go outside.

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Roster Analysis: Evaluating the Eagles’ Offense

The Eagles trimmed their roster down to 53 today. Here’s a position-by-position look at where things stand after having heard from GM Howie Roseman.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.

Nothing to see here. Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne were cut. Dixon has a chance of landing on the practice squad.

Vick will start, Foles will back him up, and Barkley will look to learn the offense as a rookie.

Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.

In the end, Chip Kelly decided he only needed three running backs on the 53-man roster. Undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker was let go. He could land a spot on the practice squad. There’s also a chance that the Eagles find a running back they like from another team and add him in the next few days.

McCoy will get the bulk of the carries, Brown should see plenty of action too, and Polk will likely be heard from at some point as well.

Wide receivers (5): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl.

This position was a bit of a surprise. The Eagles got rid of rookie free agent Russell Shepard and Greg Salas. Throughout camp, the thought here was that at least one of the two would make it, but they both ended up getting released in favor of Maehl.

However, Roseman made it sound like wide receiver is a fluid position for the Eagles. It would not be surprising if they added someone in the coming days and let Maehl go. Maehl was originally acquired from the Texans earlier this month and played for Kelly at Oregon. He had eight catches in the preseason finale against the Jets and drew praise from Kelly for his special-teams ability.

Jackson and Cooper will start on the outside. Avant will play the slot. And Johnson will mix in. Johnson also figures to be the lead return man, although Kelly said recently that using Jackson back there is still an option.

Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Emil Igwenagu.

Another surprise here was Igwenagu. He made the team as the fourth tight end over Clay Harbor. Roseman said the Eagles were looking for someone who didn’t duplicate the skill set of other guys on the roster. Igwenagu is more in the fullback/tight end role of Casey. Harbor is more in the tight end/receiver mode of Celek and Ertz. According to the GM, that was part of the reason for the decision.

Casey suffered a hamstring injury vs. the Jets, but Roseman said he should be ready for Week 1 and confirmed that had nothing to do with the decision to keep Igwenagu.

Hate to sound like a broken record, but this is another area where the Eagles could potentially replace Igwenagu with a player from another roster.

Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tobin.

The starters are in place. From left to right, it’s Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans, and Johnson.

Barbre is the first backup guard and also the first backup tackle until Kelly is healthy. Vandervelde is the backup center.

Roseman acknowledged that Michael Bamiro is probably a bit of a project and was put in a tough spot, having missed all of the spring. We wrote about Danny Watkins at length in an earlier post. And Tobin got the nod because of his positional versatility. Roseman said he was confident that Tobin could fill in at four of the five spots on the offensive line.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Roseman Reflects On What Went Wrong With Watkins

Danny WatkinsHowie Roseman had a few different options in attempting to answer a question he clearly knew was coming.

Hours after the Eagles decided to release 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins, Roseman sat at the head of a conference room table at the NovaCare Complex and was asked to set the record straight on what his role was in selecting the offensive lineman.

“As you’ve seen here, a lot of the leadership positions and the responsibilities have changed in our organization,” Roseman said. “So when you have changes that are so drastic in an organization, there’s also going to be drastic changes on the field and the way you do things. We’ve obviously changed a lot of people in our personnel department. We’ve changed the way that we look at things because we have new people in place. I think that’s gonna be different just because the nature of personalities and people trying to do their own things and whether that’s me and our personnel staff or Chip [Kelly] and his coaching staff or Don [Smolenski] as the president of the team, it’s gonna be different.”

The message was clear: No trip down memory lane, but we’re not going to make the same mistakes again.

As Tim pointed out last week, Andy Reid gave Roseman credit for the Watkins pick shortly after the draft.

“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top,” Reid said at the time. “This was a guy that he really wanted and liked.”

But when owner Jeffrey Lurie addressed reporters earlier this year, he absolved Roseman of blame for the 2011 draft.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that’s working here,” Lurie said in January. “I came to the conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman. I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that’s the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for. The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from, and it was awfully clear.”

Lurie had the scorecard. He sent Reid and Joe Banner packing. And he decided to keep Roseman as he ushered in a new era with Kelly.

As for Watkins, we pointed out earlier that many scouts, analysts and personnel people thought he was a good prospect coming out of school. The issue for the Eagles was more about deciding to take a 26-year-old guard in the first round than mis-evaluating a prospect.

Asked what he remembers about his personal evaluation of Watkins, Roseman said: “When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.

“Part of his personality, and you talk about him being a firefighter, is that he feels like he has to help save people, and he put a lot of pressure on himself and he couldn’t just go out and play. I think getting away from Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him.”

As for the need to take age into account during the draft, Roseman made it sound like the Eagles learned multiple lessons from the Watkins pick and looking back, probably should have seen some of the warning signs.

“There have been some guys in the last couple of drafts who have been over-age, and we’ve spent a lot of time just looking at that,” he said. “And I think I’d answer it this way: When you’re successful in anything, especially in football, a lot of times coaches are selfish, they want to win games. So they’re going to put you out there really early. You’re gonna play at a really young age. And you’re gonna play a lot at a young age. So when you look around the NFL at the successful players, there’s not a lot of guys that are one-year starters and are seniors or playing at a later age. And it makes sense because if you’re really that talented, people find you.”

The Eagles’ expectations when they selected Watkins were for him to step in and play right away at a high level. But that didn’t happen. He did not play well in 12 starts as a rookie. Going into his second season, he didn’t take well to the coaching of Howard Mudd and struggled again through six starts. He suffered through what Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury and then was benched for journeyman Jake Scott.

Now, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, is left to figure out what’s next for him. The Eagles, meanwhile, will move forward with hopes of not repeating similar mistakes in the future.

“You’re disappointed,” Roseman said. “You’re disappointed when any of your players don’t work out obviously. And when they’re first-round picks, it’s more of a disappointment. I think if there’s a positive to it, in the last couple of years, we were able to really evaluate ourselves and make some substantial changes in how we do things. Going forward, I think that’s really gonna benefit us. And I think it’s benefited us already.”

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What They Said About Watkins In 2011

There’s no doubt that the selection of Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft raised some immediate questions.

But those questions had less to do with Watkins’ ability than the pure logic of drafting a 26-year-old guard in the first round.

After two unimpressive seasons with the Eagles, the franchise is letting Watkins go and essentially admitting its mistake. We’ll hear from Howie Roseman later today, but I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at what people said about Watkins back when the Eagles selected him.

Again, scouts, analysts and personnel people seemed to be pretty high on Watkins’ natural ability when he came out of Baylor.

From Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

A self-described “glorified goon” when he was growing up playing hockey in Kelowna, British Columbia. Turned to fire-fighting at 16 and went to Butte (Calif.) Junior College. After being asked to walk on for football, he started two years at LT and then two more at LT for Bears. “He’s not as good an athlete as Sitton but he’s like him,” one scout said. “He’s a tough son of a (expletive) now.” Spent Senior Bowl at guard and, given his height, figures to play there. At least one team is eyeing him for center. “Big, powerful guy,” said [Colts vice chairman] Bill Polian. “I’m sure he’s a starter.” One drawback is his age. He will turn 27 on Nov. 6. “You can talk yourself into not taking him because he is older,” [Bucs GM Mark] Dominik said. “At the same time, he doesn’t have as much normal wear and tear at that age.” More than smart enough. “In terms of pure guard talent, goll-ee, he’s awfully exciting,” another scout said. “Very good natural anchor.”

From Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News:

Watkins is the safest pick in the entire draft – the one player you can confidently say will be in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s the best guard on the board, and some NFL teams were looking at him as both a center and tackle.

From Mike Mayock of NFL Network, via the Daily News:

“I put the tape on and he jumped out at me,” Mayock said. “He’s heavy-handed [meaning Watkins ‘punches’ well], he finishes, and he’s nasty; he reminds me a lot of the [John] Moffitt kid from Wisconsin. I look at the two of them and I think they’re both interior starters. I think they’re centers or guards, and they’re starters in the league. ”

From ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr.:

The selection of Watkins surprised some people, as he may have been available even into the early second round, but they may believe he has the capability to stay at tackle. I think he’s a guard.

From CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang:

The Eagles’ selection of a 26-year-old guard with the No. 23 overall pick will be criticized by some, though certainly not by me. Danny Watkins stepped in immediately for former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith (Rams) at left tackle in 2009 for Baylor, demonstrating great toughness and competitive fire despite it being only his third season of playing the game. What was most impressive, however, was how quickly he acclimated inside at guard at the Senior Bowl despite having never played the position. He’ll provide toughness inside for Philadelphia.

From SI.com’s Peter King:

The good — Danny Watkins is a day-one starter, mature and experienced, and can play either guard and, in a pinch, tackle, where he played last year at Baylor. The bad — He’ll be a 27-year-old rookie this fall.

From ESPN.com’s Todd McShay, via McNabbOrKolb.com:

I think Danny Watkins fits in immediately as a starter and you look at his make-up: he’s a tough, physical, nasty offensive guard that’s going to upgrade this team in the run game and also help in terms of pass protection.

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