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.