What Does the Danny Watkins Promotion Mean?

Eagles Danny Watkins

Geoff Mosher of The News Journal reports today that Danny Watkins, the Eagles first-round pick this year, will replace Kyle DeVan as the starting right guard this Sunday against Buffalo for his first NFL start.

This is big news for Watkins, obviously. After the Eagles gave him every chance to start in the preseason, Watkins looked completely unprepared to start. There were certainly limiting factors. He was hurt by the lockout and a brief holdout, both of which prevented him from making the transition to the NFL as fast as possible.

Still, at 26 years-old, Watkins was supposed to be NFL-ready when he arrived in Philly. The fact that he didn’t even dress for three out of the first four games strikes major doubt into estimations of Howie Roseman’s drafting, especially when the starter DeVan was so bad. Pro Football Focus pegged DeVan with the blame on both 49ers sacks, as well as four QB pressures last week. Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t buy a first down in short yardage. But really, how much did the Eagles expect out of a guy they pulled off the street a week before the season started?

With this news, we’re left wondering if Watkins was promoted due to his own progression or because the Eagles simply had no other choice. The jury is definitely still out on Watkins, and I’m not ready at all to write him off just because he couldn’t start right away. But I’m leaning toward the second option for two reasons.

First, nothing has really changed since Sunday when the Eagles decided that Watkins wasn’t good enough to put on a uniform. He couldn’t show sudden progress in practice just a day or two later. The only thing that happened recently was the coaches reviewing the game tape and seeing how bad DeVan was against the 49ers.

Second, promoting Watkins mirrors a move the Eagles made just a week ago, when they officially promoted Nate Allen to the starting lineup. Another high draft pick, Allen had been dogged with injuries but also looked completely out of his element in the preseason. He wasn’t inserted into the lineup because he healed or because he suddenly fixed his problems. No, it took a tackle “attempt” by Kurt Coleman against the Giants. Since that point, Allen hasn’t exactly looked like a stud, either.

The Eagles figured that if they’re going to get beat, it might as well be with the guys they’ve recently invested top picks in. As such, the countdown to Jaiquawn Jarrett’s promotion begins… right now.

Photo from Getty.

Juan Castillo's Last Chance

Eagles Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo

There is little question in my mind that Juan Castillo, much like the young linebackers he has thrust into the spotlight, simply isn’t ready for primetime. So far there has been nothing to suggest that Castillo can game plan effectively to utilize his great defensive line and shutdown corners or minimize his personnel weaknesses.

Thus, this Sunday’s game is a must-win for the defensive coordinator. If he can’t bottle up the anemic San Francisco offense, Castillo deserves to be fired posthaste.

Let me detail for you just how bad the 49ers offense is. According to Football Outsiders, they have the second-worst pass blocking offensive line, the worst starting running back in Frank Gore, and no wide receiver with more than seven receptions. Alex Smith is the 25th-best quarterback in the NFL, just behind Bengals rookie Andy Dalton.

The 49ers have exactly one serious offensive weapon: Vernon Davis, the athletic tight end who has twice the receptions as San Fran’s next best receiving threat.

Planning to defend and disrupt this offense should be the football equivalent of handing someone a nearly completed crossword puzzle, final word: three letters, “easy as ___”.

Given the Eagles huge advantages against the 49ers wide receivers and offensive line, they should be able to keep San Fran from scoring much more than 10 points. And Juan Castillo has no excuse for letting Vernon Davis or anyone else on that team beat him, even with the problems the Eagles linebackers and safeties have had.

If the Eagles can’t shut this offense down, there will be no more time to let him rearrange a few players here and there. Castillo either wins this week or he’s out the door.

Photo from Getty.

Westbrook Flies Again on Monday Night Football

Lost in the offseason drama at the quarterback position was the departure of another all-time Eagles great: running back Brian Westbrook.

As the season has gone on it has been easy to forget about Westbrook’s absence. LeSean McCoy has been better than pretty much anyone expected, gaining 779 yards on the ground and another 448 in the air to go with 7 touchdowns through just 11 games.

Plus, Westbrook has been practically invisible since signing with San Francisco. At least, until last night, when the former #36 (now #20) rushed 23 times for 136 yards, including a shifty 8-yard touchdown run, in relief of an injured Frank Gore to help the 49ers beat the Cardinals in Monday Night Football…

Dissecting the Recent Rumors on McNabb

Dissecting the Recent Trade Rumors on Donovan McNabb Philadelphia Eagles

There’s been a lot of rumors flying around over the last week. Time to step back and look at them piece by piece. Let’s use Mike Florio’s McNabb magnum opus as a jumping off point, since it seems pretty obvious to me that his source is inside the Eagles organization:

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Eagles are receiving offers from teams that have not been identified publicly at the request of the teams making the offers.  This is happening for two reasons:  (1) some of the teams have incumbent starting quarterbacks who would be confused, to say the least, if they learned that McNabb could be joining the club; and (2) none of the teams want fans or the media to know that they are courting McNabb, in the event that they fail to land him. This doesn’t explain the fact that the Bills, Rams, and Raiders have been named as potential trade partners.  According to the source, however, the Eagles have disclosed to no one the names of the teams with whom they are or aren’t talking.

Put simply, in order for Florio to be so sure there are teams talking to the Eagles that no one has heard of, he has to have talked to someone with the Eagles. Think about it.

First of all, no one could know that there are other teams in the mix who haven’t been mentioned unless they were working for one of those teams or for the Eagles. Since those teams clearly have no desire to make it public, and wouldn’t know there are multiple “teams” interested, it had to have been the Eagles.

Second, only the Eagles have an incentive to get this information out there — true or not. If there are only negotiations with Oakland, Buffalo, etc. than this could give Philadelphia the upper hand. I’m not saying the new rumor isn’t true — there probably are a number of teams who have quietly inquired about the price tag on McNabb. But this is just as self-serving to the Eagles as McLane’s McNabb-to-Rams report.

In any case, who could these teams with “incumbent starting quarterbacks” be? Basically you’re talking about teams that don’t have a mix of quarterbacks (looking at you Oakland), but rather have a nominal starter. This category of teams would probably include teams like Carolina, Jacksonville, San Francisco, maybe even Tennessee.

We initially believed that Jeff McLane’s erroneous report that McNabb could be a Ram by the end of the week was the Eagles themselves, who were floating a phony rumor in the hopes of sending a “speak now or forever hold your piece/peace” vibe to other interested teams.  Based on our source, McLane apparently had a different source.

“Based on our source…” — i.e. “From what the Eagles told me, they had nothing to do with McLane’s report.” And again, I think it’s funny that Florio would discredit the possibility McLane’s report was the Eagles putting out stuff to boost the offers on McNabb, when that’s exactly what his report here does as well!

It’s possible that McLane’s source was McNabb himself, or agent Fletcher Smith.  (McLane’s subsequent report that McNabb prefers playing for the Vikings suggests he has a pipeline into the McNabb camp.)  This approach by McNabb would allow him to push the issue to a head without pulling a Jay Cutler and openly demanding a trade.

Interesting idea. Thought not sure if it’s really in McNabb’s best interest to push a trade to the Rams that hasn’t actually been discussed — unless he’s really just fed up with the whole process and finally wants out of Philadelphia. But this type of analysis treads awfully close to Deadspin’s interpretation.

The McLane report isn’t the only nugget that might not reflect reality.  ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio says that no one is willing to offer more than a third-round pick.  But as our source pointed out, “Has he talked to every team and have they told him their offer?”

Or I don’t know, maybe he just talked to one team that’s interested in keeping the price low… Sal Pal is close to worthless these days.

Finally, the Associated Press reported that the Eagles want the 42nd pick or higher in the 2010 draft.  (And, of course, the AP report was taken as gospel truth because the AP has never been wrong.)  Said the source, “Does anyone really believe the Eagles would pick such a random number and draw a line in the sand?”  We’re told that something higher than this reported threshold already has been offered.  The source believes that the “42 or higher” requirement was leaked by one or more other teams in order to frame the value — and possibly to create local pressure on the Eagles, many of whose fans generally are anxious, to say the least, to see McNabb get run out of town.

First of all, yes, I can see the Eagles saying they want a first round pick or early 2nd rounder (probably plus something extra) for McNabb and not budging. And how exactly does this create local pressure? The fact that the Eagles are asking for a high pick doesn’t sound crazier than anything else — a better way to put the pressure on the Eagles would be to release Sal Pal’s report, or (better yet) say the team would be willing to take a 3rd rounder.

Instead, this basically affirms the stance the Eagles took if they were the ones to leak the 33rd overall pick and FS O.J. Atogwe deal to McLane — they want first round value, and aren’t afraid to ask for it. By telling the AP this, the Eagles front office has essentially told the teams that are snooping around, offering late-second or third round picks to get serious or get left behind. And Florio affirms that the Eagles have in fact gotten an offer “higher than this reported threshold.”

As we understand it, the Eagles have received a variety of offers, with draft picks only and players only and players and picks.  We’re told that the Eagles have never placed an asking price on McNabb.  Instead, they’re doing exactly what we reported in early March that they’d do — sitting back and waiting for the offers to come and evaluating them at the appropriate time.

Ha. No asking price on McNabb. I don’t believe that for one second. Maybe early in the process, but by now the Eagles have to be seriously telling teams, either through the press or in direct talks, that they want at least one high pick.

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By the way, a couple notes on Michael Lombardi’s post yesterday about McNabb and similar rumors:

A team executive told me the Raiders and Vikings are discussing the availability of backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Trading Rosenfels would only happen if the Vikings know for certain that Brett Favre is coming back.

The Sage Rosenfels chatter is the most obvious sign Oakland is in serious negotiations with Philadelphia about McNabb. They’re trying to show they can go other directions.

Many executives I talked to last week wondered why the 49ers are not actively pursuing McNabb. With McNabb, the 49ers would be the favorites to win the NFC West. As I often write, the biggest problem in the NFL is evaluating your own team, and the 49ers really believe they’re set at QB.

Agreed 100%. If San Francisco isn’t one of those teams who, according to Florio, are in quiet talks with the Eagles, they truly are incompetent.