Eagles Sign OL Scott, Release Vandervelde

Another week, another roster move on the Eagles’ offensive line.

The team announced today that it has signed veteran Jake Scott and released Julian Vandervelde.

Scott, 31, started 121 games from 2004 to 2011. He spent the first four years of his career with the Colts and played under Howard Mudd. Scott then moved on to the Titans. He’s started three games at right tackle, but has played mostly guard throughout his career.

There’s no major injury with Scott. He started every game the past seven seasons. Apparently, he didn’t get the money he thought he deserved on the open market during the offseason.

“I’m not angry.  This is my decision,” he told Ross Tucker back in September. “It is a business and it is my decision not to be on a team right now.”

As for the Eagles, their offensive line continues to be a mess (details here). If Scott’s able to play right away, the guess is he’d fill in at right guard. Danny Watkins has missed three straight games with an ankle injury. Dennis Kelly has filled in, but struggled. Kelly could replace either Demetress Bell or King Dunlap at one of the tackle spots.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Numbers That Matter

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy MaclinLet’s get today started with three Eagles numbers that matter.

50 – The number of points by which the Eagles have been outscored this year. Their minus-50 point differential ranks last in the NFC. “What ifs” exist with every team. For example, what if Michael Vick’s pass to Jeremy Maclin against the Lions late in the game didn’t get tipped by Ndamukong Suh? What if Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham hooked his 34-yard game-winning field-goal attempt? What if the officials called holding on the linebacker covering Brent Celek Monday night, negating the pick-six in the first quarter?

But the bottom line is the Eagles are performing like one of the worst teams in the league. Football Outsiders ranks them 26th. According to their numbers, the Eagles have a 1.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. On the other hand, they have a 10.1 percent chance of earning a top-three draft pick. In the NFC, only the Panthers (2-6) have fewer wins.

So coaches and players can talk about the team being close and wonder what would have happened if they’d gotten a few more breaks. But this team is 11-13 in the last year and a half. The results suggest they are closer to the bottom of the league than the top.

50.9 – Average receiving yards per game for Jeremy Maclin. Many predicted a breakout season for the fourth-year receiver, but it’s been quite the opposite – a letdown. There’s no doubt that inconsistent quarterback play and the shaky offensive line have been factors, but Maclin has not been a difference-maker. With nine games left, he is on pace to set three-year lows for yards per game, catches per game and yards per reception. Prior to the season, there was thought that the Eagles might look to extend Maclin during the year (his contract is up after 2013). But it’s tough to justify doing that now, especially considering we’re likely looking at a new head coach and quarterback next season.

34 – The number of sacks Michael Vick took back in 2010. If you remember, part of the reason for the coaching staff shake-up was to get that number down and install Howard Mudd’s scheme. Two years later, Vick’s been sacked 27 times in eight games. Only Aaron Rodgers (29) and Jay Cutler (28) have been sacked more. We’re all aware of the injuries to Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and now Todd Herremans. But it’s absolutely fair to question the lack of depth and the roster constructed by Andy Reid and Howie Roseman going into the season.

Everybody was expecting a dropoff, but the injuries have completely crippled this offense and this team. Keep in mind that the Peters injury occurred back in March. The Eagles moved swiftly to sign Demetress Bell, and he has been a disaster. At backup guard, they are starting a 6-8 rookie fifth-round pick (Dennis Kelly). And at backup center, they went with Dallas Reynolds, someone who spent three years on the practice squad. Again, we knew there would be a dropoff, but evidence suggests Reid, Roseman and Mudd did an inadequate job addressing offensive line depth.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Why was Vick sacked seven times against the Saints? We went to the tape. Warning: Images are not suitable for young children.

Here’s a player-by-player game review of the Eagles offensive linemen.

Reid says he’s not thinking about Jeffrey Lurie’s 8-8 comment during the preseason. It’s difficult to believe him.

According to a report, Roseman received a four-to-five year contract extension back in June. We take a look at how that could affect this team’s offseason plans.

Jason Babin played significantly more than Brandon Graham last week. Here are snap count notes.

Tim writes that at this point, the Eagles’ words ring hollow.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

According to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, the injury news on Herremans does not look good:

There’s a very good chance the Eagles will lose starting right offensive tackle Todd Herremans for the rest of the season with the foot injury he suffered Monday night during the Eagles’ loss to the Saints, according to two people familiar with his test results.

“It’s not good,” one team official said. “It doesn’t look good at all. We’re still waiting for [more test results], but it looks bad.”

The Eagles rank 21st in ESPN.com’s power rankings. Writes Dan Graziano:

They started the season at No. 7. There is no team, over the past two years, that has consistently fallen shorter of external expectations. But at this point, after they couldn’t even get the offense going in New Orleans of all places, we have to believe they’re just a bad team. I have them at 22. Ashley has them at 18. John Clayton has them at 23. That’s the range, and it’s pretty far from the range in which the Eagles expected to be at this or any other point this season.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back at Novacare to prepare for the Cowboys. We’ll check in on the mood in the locker room and also provide some All-22 analysis of where things went wrong for this team.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Taking Stock Of the O-Line

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddThe area where the Eagles are most likely to shake up personnel during the bye week is the offensive line.

The problem? They don’t have a lot of options. We’ll see if they sign someone or even make a trade. But given the way the roster currently stands, let’s take a look at all five spots to see where things could be headed in the final 10 games.

Left tackle: King Dunlap won the starting job out of camp and was the man the first two weeks before suffering an injury. Since then, it’s been Demetress Bell. The Eagles are looking for adequate out of this spot, not great. They know none of their current options is going to be Jason Peters. I thought Bell gave them adequate a couple weeks ago against the Steelers. But he struggled big-time against the Lions.

The key with Bell is this: Do you think he can be significantly better a few weeks from now? If the answer is yes, you stick with him. After all, this is the guy the Eagles targeted in the offseason to fill in for Peters, and he comes with a track record of having started 24 games prior to 2012. But if you anticipate him playing more games like last week, you have to make a change. One option, and probably the most likely, is to go back to Dunlap. The other (and a longshot) would be to throw rookie Dennis Kelly into the mix.

Left guard: Evan Mathis has not been as consistent as last year, but he’s the least of the concerns on the offensive line. The Eagles took a look at Chris Williams yesterday. He started nine games at left guard for the Bears last year.

Center: Jason Kelce’s injury has simply been devastating. He started the first two games, and since then, it’s been Dallas Reynolds. The offense had a pair of botched snaps last game, one of which resulted in a turnover. You can live with Reynolds missing blocks and getting beaten, but errors like the snap that sailed past Michael Vick will kill this team.

The Eagles have veteran Steve Vallos on the roster, but all signs indicate they’re not too confident in him. Remember, Reynolds beat out Vallos in the preseason. And even though the Eagles brought Vallos back, he’s been inactive the past two games. Instead of having him dress as Reynolds’ backup, the Eagles have gone with Mathis. So if you’re looking for a truly outside-the-box idea, that might be it – give Mathis a shot at center.

Last week, when I was asked Todd Herremans why the Eagles have improved against the blitz, he pointed to preparation and mentioned that Mathis had been going to meetings with Reynolds and Vick. From a physical standpoint, Mathis is better than Reynolds. And going over the protection calls probably wouldn’t be a major issue. But there are two major red flags. One is that Mathis has never played center in the NFL (yes, that’s a big one). And the other is this: If you’re weakening left guard to potentially upgrade at center, then what’s really the point?

Right guard: Danny Watkins continues to be way too up-and-down in his second season, specifically in pass protection. Does he have his moments? Sure. Watkins did a good job pulling in front of a LeSean McCoy run last week, and I showed with the All-22 how he did a nice job on a 17-yard screen. But overall, just too many mistakes.

I know some are calling for him to be replaced, but Watkins doesn’t look any worse to me now than he did for much of last season. And the truth is, the Eagles don’t have a lot of options to replace him. Dunlap played a game at guard last season and held up well. But asking him to play there every week is a different story. Kelly played guard in the preseason, but it’s unlikely that the rookie would be able to step in and provide a significant upgrade. The Eagles signed Nate Menkin from the Texans’ practice squad, but he seems like more of a down-the-road option.

In other words, I think they stick with Watkins and hope that he improves.

Right tackle: Of all the positions, this is where the Eagles actually have some flexibility. Todd Herremans has been up-and-down this season. And you know he can play guard at a high level. But the only reason you move him inside is if you’re able to adequately replace him at right tackle. Would I consider Dunlap adequate? Probably. But I have concerns about him holding up for a 10-game stretch. If they really like Kelly, he could be an option too.

I’m not sure replacing Watkins with Herremans and Herremans with Dunlap/Kelly is a significant upgrade. If the Mathis-to-center move is an option, then perhaps Herremans moves to left guard. But that would mean three of the five spots would be occupied by new starters – probably too drastic a shake-up for Week 8 of the regular season.

I’d say it’s unlikely that Herremans gets moved back to guard at this point, but given the struggles of this group, my guess is all options are on the table for the final 10 games.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Even if he wants to, Andy Reid cannot replace Vick with Nick Foles. Tim explains why.

While we are well aware of the offensive line’s struggles, this week’s All-22 analysis shows that Vick left too many plays on the field Sunday.

Reid is getting slammed by the national media for his decision to fire Juan Castillo.

The link between Todd Bowles and Bill Parcells was formed during Bowles’ playing days.

What does the Castillo firing say about Reid? Tim takes a look.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Don Banks has the Eagles 13th in his power rankings:

Well, I’d say Andy Reid finally understands the urgency of the situation in Philly. It’s win-or-surrender-your-parking-space time. Firing a coordinator and benching a quarterback are two of the biggest cards an embattled head coach can play in midseason to try to save the ship from going down. Reid just did one of those, and looks ready to do the other any minute now.

Joe Banner was introduced as new CEO of the Cleveland Browns yesterday and was asked how his current situation compares to taking over the Eagles. Per the team’s Web site:

“There are a lot of analogies. You’re in a market with a fan base that’s just tremendously passionate and frankly, in running a franchise there’s nothing more valuable than being in a place where they care that much and there’s that much passion and interest. That’s very analogous to what I had in Philadelphia. The challenge is how do we take advantage of that and how do we reward that quite frankly, whether it’s a gameday experience, getting from your car to the stadium or buying a hot dog at the concession stand or how you feel when you walk out of the building based on how the team performed. We’re going to evaluate every single aspect of that and that’s again similar to Philadelphia. There will be some places where a little incremental improvement can be made and there will some places, frankly, where you’ll see dramatic changes, but it will take time.”

COMING UP

You should know by now that Birds 24/7 doesn’t believe in the bye week. We’ll have plenty of content to get you through the day.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Finding Offensive Line Answers

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddOn March 29, King Dunlap was not on an NFL roster.

Less than three months later, he’s in the driver’s seat to be the Eagles’ starting left tackle.

With the opener just about two weeks away, the offensive line has question marks. The unit was anchored by Jason Peters in 2011, but the Pro Bowler ruptured his Achilles in the offseason. The Eagles moved quickly to sign Demetress Bell, but the free agent was replaced by Dunlap after the first preseason game.

And there are other questions too: How will Jason Kelce handle added responsibilities at the line of scrimmage? Can Danny Watkins eliminate the doubt that plagued him as a rookie? Will Evan Mathis be as effective without Peters to his left? And is Todd Herremans ready for a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy runs to his side?

There are depth issues as well. Last night, rookie Dennis Kelly started at right tackle in place of Herremans, who was dealing with a personal issue. Either he or Bell figures to be the first man up should the Eagles suffer an injury at tackle during the regular season. It’s unclear who would come in should Kelce, Mathis or Watkins go down.

And of course, there’s a trickle-down effect. For example, the uncertainty could mean Brent Celek having to stay in to block more, thus taking away one of Michael Vick’s weapons in the passing game.

The number one job remains the same: keep Vick clean. The quarterback has to make wise decisions in the pocket, but the line has to do its job.

“Don’t let the guy get hurt or hit,” Howard Mudd said back in July. “Don’t let him get hit, don’t let him get hit. That’s a mantra that we have.”

At the end of last season, the future of the O-Line seemed easy to process: With improvement from Watkins and Kelce, this group had a chance to be one of the best in the league in 2012.

And while there are glimmers of optimism – the Eagles have given up just one sack in three preseason games – Mudd, Andy Reid and company have to make sure they have the right answers by Week 1.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Foles-Mania is alive and well. Tim’s got the latest on the rookie QB from Cleveland.

Here are my instant observations from the Eagles’ 27-10 win over the Browns.

Reid provided a Vick update, said Dunlap is ahead of Bell and noted that Brian Rolle still has to hold off Jamar Chaney for the WILL linebacker spot.

It was posted before the game, but T-Mac revealed his latest 53-man roster projection.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

I really hate to be the guy who has to break the news to you, but Tim Tebow won’t play in the final preseason game when the Jets travel to the Linc to take on the Eagles Thursday night, Rex Ryan announced.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com unveiled his head coach power rankings. The first category, labeled Top Shelf, features Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh. The second group, labeled Next Level, has Mike McCarthy, Reid, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin:

McCarthy is consistent and wildly underrated as one of the game’s best offensive minds. Payton is a brilliant tactician, but doesn’t excel at managing the whole organization quite as well as our top-shelf picks. Andy Reid’s consistency speaks for itself in a topsy-turvy league. The same is true for Coughlin, who hasn’t had a sub-.500 season with the New York Giants. Then again, he’s only had two seasons out of eight where the Giants won a playoff game. He made those years count.

It’s worth noting that Reid and Harbaugh are the only coaches in the top two categories without Super Bowl rings. Harbaugh, of course, is entering his second season with the 49ers.

Browns first-round pick Trent Richardson is expected to play Week 1 vs. the Eagles, after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But the rookie’s workload will be limited until he heals properly.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Watkins Exiting Valley Of Darkness?

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.It was a term Howard Mudd used to describe a player who doubted himself. An explanation for a lack of confidence, or a matter of indecision.

On one of the first days of training camp, Mudd was talking about second-year guard Danny Watkins, and he brought up the “valley of darkness.”

“You get somewhere and then you start doubting yourself, doubting, doubting, and then the ball is snapped and you don’t have a clue where you are,” he said. “You can be very amateurish if you will. All of a sudden, it starts to click again and you quit doubting yourself. Do well, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, you get there. So Danny, that’s what I think the offseason’s done for him.”

The Eagles’ offensive line was a strength for much of 2011. But Watkins got to camp late last summer, tried to make the move from tackle to guard (while learning Mudd’s system) and was benched at the start of the season in favor of journeyman Kyle DeVan. He took over the starting right guard spot in Week 5 and fought through an up-and-down rookie campaign.

With the opener three weeks away, Watkins is trying to make the leap in his second season. The former first-round pick doesn’t like talking about himself much, but those around him see signs that the light bulb has come on.

“Yes, it’s pretty much gone with him,” said left guard Evan Mathis, when asked about the doubt that plagued Watkins in 2011. “His confidence is at an all-time high right now. He’s playing really good football. If he does make a mistake, he doesn’t dwell on that. That’s part of what can put you in the valley of darkness, is making a mistake and not being able to get over it and move on to the next play. You get stuck thinking about that, and that can make you indecisive. But he hasn’t done that at all any time recently. He’s made a lot of progress.”

Watkins only got six plays to demonstrate his progress in the first preseason game, but with the starters expected to play at least the first half against the Patriots Monday night, he’ll be on the field more. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg likes what he’s seen from Watkins, but thinks the 27-year-old probably still has a ways to go before maximizing his potential.

“He’s so far ahead of where he was at this time last year, there’s no comparison,” Mornhinweg said.

“He’s getting better every day still, and I would suspect that he’s going to be one of the fine guards in this game. There’s a progression to that. I would expect him to continue to learn in the first two or three years even before he hits his peak, but he’s playing at a high level.”

Mathis seemed to agree.

“He’s a very good player right now,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a great player when all is said and done with.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: One Way To Help Vick

On Michael Vick’s second drop-back of the preseason, he was sacked by Steelers defensive tackle Steve McLendon, who threw him to the ground.

On his fifth drop-back, Vick felt pressure from his front side, stepped up in the pocket, let go of the ball and slammed his thumb against Jason Kelce’s helmet.

A reasonable question to ask is: Why was Vick so close to Kelce when he released the football?

Vick was in shotgun, and at the deepest point in his drop, he was at the 14-yard line, or 8 yards behind the original line of scrimmage. The problem was that Steelers linebacker Chris Carter went around Demetress Bell and would have sacked Vick had he set his feet that deep in the pocket. So he stepped up, and when he finally threw the football, he was at the 18-yard line, just 4 yards behind the original line of scrimmage and in a crowd of linemen.

This is something offensive line coach Howard Mudd talked about earlier in training camp.

“The only thing that we really stress is the depth of the pocket because Mike isn’t really tall,” Mudd said. “So when he gets to his throwing spot, the more separation you can have between the original line and Mike is really important, so that he feels, ‘Oh, there’s a bunch of space here, I can see, I can deliver.’ That’s a real critical part of it.”

According to Football Outsiders, Vick had 19 balls batted at the line of scrimmage last year, or one every 22 attempts. Drew Brees, who is the same height as Vick, had six balls batted, per Pro Football Focus. Or one every 109 attempts.

As Mudd explained, one way to help Vick avoid hits and batted balls is with the deep drops. But those require that Bell and Todd Herremans keep pass-rushers from getting around the edge.

Just one more thing to keep an eye on this preseason.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Damaris Johnson took an unorthodox path to the NFL, but he was impressive Thursday night and is in great position to make the Eagles roster.

The Birds are stacked at defensive end. So who’s going to be the odd man out when they have to trim the roster to 53? Tim takes a look.

I put out a couple game reviews from Thursday’s win. Here are player-by-player breakdowns for the linebackers and the defensive backs after I re-watched the game.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

According to a report, Vince Young owes a company called Pro Player Funding $1.69M after he failed to pay off a loan he took out during the lockout.

Brent Celek, Kevin Curtis and Heather Mitts are suing a financial adviser in an alleged Ponzi scheme, reports Phillip Lucas of the Daily News:

According to court documents, William Crafton, of San Diego, intentionally made misleading statements to execute investments that were not in his clients’ best interest. The athletes told Crafton they wanted him to use a conservative investment strategy to ensure that their financial assets would grow over time, the documents allege.

Instead of investing their money in low-risk ventures, Crafton allegedly funneled it into Ponzi schemes with people with whom he had personal or financial relationships. Those relationships were never disclosed to Crafton’s clients, and it took years for them to learn that the investments were essentially worthless, the documents state.

The Giants held a moment of silence for Garrett Reid before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Mike Garafolo of NJ.com.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back up at Lehigh for four more days of training camp. They’ll have an 8:15 walkthrough and a 2:45 practice. We’ll of course have it all covered right here.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Practice Observations

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddIt was time for Howard Mudd to gather both sides together.

The Eagles were in the middle of a grueling practice in the Lehigh heat. They already had one live period, which involved tackling and hitting. There had been scraps, fights and activity after the whistle, often between the offensive and defensive lines.

Mudd buttered all the linemen up a little, telling them that they were the most competitive players on the field, but also reminding them that they’re working towards the same goals.

“Just talking about camaraderie, talking about where we need to go and what we need to do to get there,” said defensive tackle Derek Landri, who was involved in a scuffle with Jason Kelce and Demetress Bell. “Knocking off side chatter, side things from happening. Don’t let anything get in the way of where we need to go as an offensive and defensive line. Talking [about how] we both have a lot of talent on each side and to come together and not be individuals.

“When Coach Mudd talks, we listen,” Landri continued. “Hall of Fame player, going to be a Hall of Fame coach. Been through a lot of stuff, done big things in this league, so we all have a lot of respect for him”

The guess here is that Mudd and his buddy Jim Washburn have seen hundreds of training camp skirmishes in their day. They might even be sharing a laugh about it right now. But protecting Michael Vick and getting to opposing quarterbacks like Eli Manning and Tony Romo will go a long way in determining the Eagles’ success this season.

In other words, don’t expect either group to back down in the coming weeks.

Other practice observations:

* During wide receiver/cornerback one-on-one drills, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got a good jam on DeSean Jackson at the line of scrimmage, but the play-making wide receiver got past him and hauled in a beautifully-thrown deep ball from Michael Vick. Next up was Jeremy Maclin vs. Brandon Boykin to the left side of Vick. The Eagles quarterback let his receiver gain a step deep and then delivered another pass right on the money. The Birds will continue to be a big-play offense in 2012, and when Vick has a chance to hit Maclin or Jackson deep, he needs to connect.

* How’s this for a first-team defensive line? Cullen Jenkins at left defensive end, Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox inside and Trent Cole at right defensive end. With Mike Patterson out and Jason Babin sidelined, that’s the group that played together a lot today. The Eagles showed a look we saw last year with the defensive ends standing up inside and getting running starts towards the quarterback, while the defensive tackles shifted outside.

* Cole doesn’t care who he’s up against. He plays like a mad man even at practice. During the first play of the hitting period, the second-team offense ran Dion Lewis to the right. Cole didn’t care. He hustled to that side and pulled out the old Superman move where he flies to the pile before the whistle blows.

* Cox is getting a lot of tough love from Washburn, but he doesn’t seem to mind. The defensive line coach has something to say to the rookie after seemingly every play.

* Jamar Chaney got beat once by LeSean McCoy in coverage, but otherwise had a strong day, making several tackles near the line of scrimmage.

* Lewis has had a strong two days and appears to be firmly in place as the backup to McCoy right now. Bryce Brown, who had a couple nice runs, looks to be ahead of Chris Polk on the depth chart.

* Cliff Harris made a nice play, breaking up a Vick pass intended for Maclin near the sidelines. Harris is fighting for one of the backup cornerback jobs. His chances will be helped if he can impress as a returner also.

* Officially, Duce Staley is in charge of special teams quality control. But with the afternoon practice less than a minute in, he didn’t like what he saw from Stanley Havili, who apparently was looking down while carrying the ball and running through the ropes on the ground. Staley instructed the fullback to walk back and do the drill again – this time correctly.

* Havili has been getting all the first-team reps at fullback. Emil Igwenagu, an undrafted free agent fullback out of UMass, took a big hit from Harris, but stayed on his feet to pick up some extra yards.

* I wrote earlier about the roster battles along the Eagles defensive line. One guy who hasn’t stood out much is Antonio Dixon. He’s squarely on the bubble right now.

* For the first time since the team selected him, Jaiquawn Jarrett looked like the player the Eagles described when they drafted him in the second round. T-Mac’s got all the details in a separate post.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Mudd sets bar high for Demetress Bell

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddIn the first meeting against the Giants last season, Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick and Mike Kafka combined to drop back to pass 35 times.

And on 28 of those occasions, Jason Peters was charged with blocking a defender one-on-one. No help from the tight end. No chip from the running back. Nothing.

That was one of the luxuries the Eagles had with Peters at left tackle. He could take on pass-rushers like Jason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware, and Brian Orakpo without much help.

But with Peters out, the focus is now on new left tackle Demetress Bell. When I asked offensive line coach Howard Mudd whether he planned on giving Bell some help, especially early in the season, he said he didn’t think that would be necessary.

“I think that we’re not going to have to do that,” Mudd said. “That’s the plan. That’s why we brought him here. We studied him, we liked him, we thought he had the characteristics that we could use with our techniques here, that he would really buy into those and embrace them, and it would help him.”

It was quite the vote of confidence. Mudd said Bell has been mentally sharp and asks to do things over until he gets them right.

“Because he’s athletic and he’s a tough guy, if he gets beat, he’s going to come back,” Mudd said. “I just don’t think we’re going to have a problem. Let’s just march and keep going. We don’t have to invent a new offense because Jason Peters isn’t here.”

The tests will come early for Mudd, Bell and the Eagles. The Birds have the Ravens in Week 2 and the Giants in Week 4 – two teams that finished tied for third last year with 48 sacks apiece.

You can follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Mudd: Watkins needs to eliminate doubt

Howard Mudd has 37 years of NFL coaching experience, but he doesn’t want to have to do all the talking.

The Eagles’ offensive line coach encourages players to help each other out and critique themselves.

Which brings us to second-year guard Danny Watkins. The 2011 first-round pick had a shaky rookie season, filled with more downs than ups. Before the season, Watkins lost his starting job to Kyle DeVan, and when he eventually got on the field, he had his share of issues in pass protection.

So after the season, Mudd asked Watkins, and the team’s other offensive linemen, for a written self-evaluation. When he saw what Watkins had to say about his first year in the NFL, Mudd was impressed.

“He was spot on, I mean spot on about himself, where he needed to go,” Mudd said.

So where exactly was that? And what does Watkins need to do to improve in 2012?

“Comfort in the position, eliminating doubt about himself,” Mudd said. “That just happens to players. That just happens. That’s part of the growing process. I call that the valley of darkness. You get somewhere and then you start doubting yourself, doubting, doubting… and then the ball is snapped and you don’t have a clue where you are. You can be very amateurish, if you will. All of a sudden, it starts to click again and you quit doubting yourself. Do well, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, you get there. So Danny, that’s what I think the offseason’s done for him.”

For Watkins, it was a fear of failure, Mudd said. Not living up to expectations as the 23rd overall pick and legitimizing outsiders’ doubts about drafting a 27-year-old rookie.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Mudd first used the word “hopeful” when asked if Watkins would make the leap. Then he stopped himself, deciding he was more confident than that.

“It’s more than hopeful,” he said. “I would think that he is well on his way.”

And make no mistake about it. Watkins will be key to the offensive line’s success. Not even the ultimate optimist believes that Demetress Bell can do all the things Jason Peters did. But if second-year players Watkins and Jason Kelce can improve on their rookie campaigns, the unit has a chance to be pretty good.

Now that Watkins has identified his issues, it’s up to him to correct them when he arrives at camp later this week.