Should the Philadelphia Eagles Give Danny Watkins Another Year at Right Guard?

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Should the Philadelphia Eagles Give Danny Watkins Another Year at Right Guard?
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Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid raised quite a few eyebrows when he selected Baylor lineman Danny Watkins with his first-round pick in the 2011 draft. 

Selecting an offensive lineman wasn't the problem. The Eagles had a major hole at right guard, as the combination of Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole failed to even adequately protect Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick during the 2010 campaign. 

Watkins, a tackle in college, was expected to make the smooth transition to right guard in the National Football League. 

The issue was his age. The former firefighter was 26 years old when he was drafted, making him the oldest first-round draft pick since 1980. 

Reid defended Watkins' age, saying that his age would make him an immediate contributor on the offensive line instead of taking a year or two to develop, as many younger players frequently did. Plus, even at 26, Watkins could likely provide the Eagles with seven to 10 years of solid play at guard.

Then training camp started and everything went downhill.

After holding out in a contract dispute, which cost him valuable learning time with new offensive line coach Howard Mudd, Watkins failed to even adequately grasp Mudd's system. He was eventually benched before the beginning of the season for veteran free agent Kyle DeVan, who had been signed off the street. 

But DeVan struggled, as expected, and the Eagles finally gave Watkins his chance to start after four games. He played poorly as a rookie, allowing 23 quarterback hurries and committing five penalties in 12 starts. 

In 2012, Watkins was expected to take a major leap forward, but he was benched yet again midseason, this time for another veteran who had been signed off the street (Jake Scott).

Watkins played in just three offensive snaps over the season's final 10 games, leading many to question whether the once highly recruited guard would ever develop into even an adequate starter in the National Football League.

As it stands now, Watkins is not expected to enter the 2013 season as a starter on the offensive line. The Eagles will likely either draft top prospect Chance Warmack to play right guard or they'll select tackle Eric Fisher, allowing veteran Todd Herremans to slide back to his natural position of guard. 

Either way, Watkins is a long shot to start during the 2013 season, if ever again. 

The question is whether the Eagles should use their draft picks to shore up the defense, allowing Watkins one final chance to prove his worth as a starter.

Look no further than defensive end Brandon Graham, a first-round draft pick in 2010 who was labeled by many as a bust following his first two seasons in the NFL. Graham broke out in 2012, recording 31 quarterback hurries and rating as the second-best 4-3 defensive end in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, despite playing in fewer than half his team's defensive snaps.

Graham is expected to be a starter (or a major rotational player) on the 2013 team. His 2012 season successfully silenced most of his critics. He appears to have a bright future.

Maybe the same is possible for Watkins. 

Just like Graham is expected to thrive playing in a variation of the 3-4 defense, change may benefit Watkins, who reportedly had issues getting along with Mudd and his intense coaching style. 

New offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland will obviously have different coaching tactics than Mudd. It's unclear whether he'll deem Watkins to be a potential starter, or if he'll look to the future. (Looking for a connection to Warmack? Stoutland coached him at Alabama.)

Personally, I wouldn't give Watkins another chance as a starter. He'll be 29 next season, which is already pretty old for an NFL player. But it's definitely possible. 

After all, there's a reason he was once regarded as one of the best guard prospects in the league. A fresh start under a new position coach could potentially revive his career. 

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