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.