Watkins Prepping For Shot At Safety


Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The coaching staff wanted Jaylen Watkins to add some weight and muscle mass this offseason, so that’s what he did.

The second-year defensive back finished the season around 194 pounds. Thanks to an increased weight-lifting regimen and change in diet, he reported to NovaCare looking a little more rocked up and weighing in at 200 pounds.

How much of that was done with the safety position in mind?

“A lot of it,” he said during a conversation with Birds 24/7. “But in general, if I can put on more weight and move the same way, it’s going to be a plus no matter what I’m playing. And that’s the case right now. I’ve put on the pounds, I still move the same. It’s big for me for safety when that comes to mind but at the same time it’s still making me a better overall player.”

Watkins played safety towards the end of his junior season and for the bulk of his senior year at Florida. He never stayed at the same position for an entire game, though, moving to the nickel or flipping outside as the situation called for it. The Eagles were drawn to his versatility. Shortly after selecting him in the fourth round last year, they said they believed he could play either corner or safety on this level.

As a rookie, he did not have the body of a safety. He trained almost exclusively at corner and served as Brandon Boykin‘s backup in the slot. The former Gator did not see action until the regular-season finale against the Giants.

The advice on his way out the door was to get bigger and to continue to learn the playbook from a safety, corner and nickel point of view, he said. Watkins  hasn’t been told exactly how his time will be split come OTAs or if he’ll be training at one position more than another, so he’s prepping for all scenarios.

“My strength is being versatile so for me it’s not one set thing. Just go in with the mindset that I can fit in anywhere in this defense, and try to win all three if I can. I’m sure the one I show the most ability at is where they’ll play me, but for me it’s about getting better every day at each one of them.

“There is a lot of opportunity out there, it’s just a matter of taking advantage of it and doing what I have to do to fit in with this team and doing whatever they ask, including special teams.”

As for the prospects of playing a physical position like safety on this level?

“In college I played against some good backs, I had to tackle some pretty big backs, and even being at the nickel I’ve had to tackle some pretty big backs and good backs,” he said. “It’s just on me to take the next step. If that’s what they need of me, then it’s all on me to take the next step. Just man up and take it. I’m not worried about any of that.”


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