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Game Film: Danny Watkins' First NFL Start

The Eagles' week five game against the Bills marked the first time that first round pick Danny Watkins strapped on an NFL helmet and took the field as a starter.

Today, we're going to take a snap-by-snap look at how the rookie guard fared during the first real test of his NFL career, so strap in, repress those bad memories and get yourselves comfortable. This one is going to be a doozy.

First Quarter

Series #1 (PHI 0 BUF 0)

  • 1st & 10: Stays with his man during the free play. Kind of a half-hearted rushing attempt by Marcell Dareus, though.
  • 1st & 10: Gets pushed back, but gives Michael Vick plenty of time to roll left and complete the pass.
  • 1st & 10: Prevents his assignment from getting to LeSean McCoy, but a collapse on the left side of the line results in a loss.
  • 2nd & 13: Looks lost as he allows Dareus to rush into the backfield untouched.
  • 3rd & 11: Didn't have much to do here, but stays alert and ready to help Todd Herremans or Jason Kelce if needed.
  • 4th & 1: Gets a great push on Dareus and allows Vick to roll out left and hit Jason Avant for the first down.
  • 1st & 10: Tries to double-team Dareus, allowing linebacker Danny Batten to streak into the backfield. The increased pressure then causes Vick to throw a pass right into the hands of Alex Carrington, who tips the the ball and allows an INT by Reggie Corner. It looked like either Herremans or Watkins missed their assignment on this one, because the offensive line completely broke down.

Series #2 (PHI 0 BUF 7)
  • 1st & 10: Fantastic effort by Watkins, first taking Dareus out of the play, then staying ahead of a rushing McCoy to block safety Bryan Scott and give the Eagles a first down.
  • 1st & 10: Once again prevents Dareus from making a play, but a big gap on the left side of the field allows the Bills' safeties to bring DeSean Jackson down for a loss.
  • 2nd & 14: Allowed linebacker Nick Barnett to get into the backfield and pressure Vick, resulting in an incomplete pass.
  • 3rd & 14: Goes for the double-team on Dareus, once again allowing Barnett to streak into the backfield and pressure Vick. 
  • 1st & 10: Stayed with backup defensive lineman Kellen Heard for the entire play, pushing him into the secondary and allowing Deon Lewis to scamper for a short gain.
  • 2nd & 8: Looked absolutely lost on this play, bursting through the line and then completely whiffing on linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who slips into the backfield. The Bills end up swarming McCoy for a loss of three.
  • 3rd & 11: The offensive line completely collapses on this play. Watkins again looks confused, allowing Kelce and Herremans to take on the bulk of the Bills' rush while he rushes into the secondary and blocks a safety. Vick gets overrun and throws another pick.

Series #3 (PHI 0 BUF 7)

  • 1st & 10: Does good job double-teaming Dareus and renders him ineffective.
  • 2nd & 6: Again stays with Dareus, allowing a big completion to DeSean. Watkins is starting to hit his stride.
  • 1st & 10: Not much for him to do here, but at least he keeps his eyes on McCoy and attempts to put himself in position should McCoy cut back to the right.

2nd Quarter

  • 2nd & 3: Not good. Watkins allows Carrington to push him well into the backfield, requiring Vick to take off up the middle and nearly lose a fumble on a sack by Shawne Merriman.
  • 3rd & 2: Again has a tough time handling Carrington, getting pushed well into the backfield, causing Vick to get flushed outside of the pocket, resulting in an errant throw. Thankfully, a roughing the passer penalty on the Bills extends the drive.
  • 1st & 10: Gets a double-team on his assignment here and allows no quarter, giving Vick plenty of time to complete a pass to Jeremy Maclin.
  • 2nd & 3: Does a great job getting downfield and taking Barnett out of the play, allowing a big gain by McCoy.
  • 1st & GOAL: Doesn't get a whole lot of push on his man and McCoy is swallowed up.
  • 2nd & GOAL: Allows DT Torell Troup to push him back and pressure Vick, but manages to still give the QB just enough time to complete a pass to Maclin for a touchdown.

Series #4 (PHI 7 BUF 14)

  • 1st & 10: What a disaster. Unfortunately, there isn't much Watkins could have done on this play, since the pressure came from the left side of the line.

Series #5 (PHI 7 BUF 21)

  • 1st & 10: Allows a little pushback by Dareus, but keeps him largely in check.
  • 2nd & 7: Once he gets his feet underneath him, Watkins does a good job staying with Barnett and allowing Vick to scramble for a yard.
  • 3rd & 6: Stays on Troup and gives a good push, but Vick's pass is batted down by the ever-present George Wilson to end the drive.

Series # 6 (PHI 7 BUF 21)

  • 1st & 10: Watkins allows Dwan Edwards to steer him towards the quarterback after Herremans breaks off from the double-team. Still, at least Watkins prevents Edwards from getting a hand on Vick as he scrambles for a big gain.
  • 1st & 10: Creates a good running lane for McCoy by knocking Dareus to the left.
  • 2nd & 4: Part of a group effort to once again take Dareus out of the play.
  • 3rd & 4: Watkins seems to be the odd man out again on this play, looking confused as to which of his teammates to assist. He finally gives DE Spencer Johnson an ineffective shove as Vick is pressured and throws another incomplete pass.

Series #7 (PHI 7 BUF 21)

  • 1st & 10: Does a good job rendering Dareus ineffective as Vick passes for a first down.
  • 1st & 10: Video missing. Sorry, folks.
  • 2nd & 10: With an assist from Kelce, Watkins keeps Carrington from going anywhere, allowing Vick plenty of time in the pocket.
  • 3rd & 10: See the above play. Although this time, Vick inexplicably waits far too long to get rid of the ball, allowing the clock to run out before the Eagles can get their field goal unit on the field.

3rd Quarter

Series # 8 (PHI 7 BUF 28)

  • 1st & 10: Not much for Watkins to do here since Dareus cuts back towards the left side halfway through the play.
  • 2nd & 10: Doesn't get much of an initial push on Dareus, allowing McCoy to take on most of the blocking duties. Vick is pressured again, although mostly from the left side.
  • 3rd & 7: Again looks lost as Herremans takes on Dareus. Watkins is looking downfield for a defender that will never come before he realizes the need to turn around and help his teammates.
  • 1st & 10: Does a great job stopping Edwards, opening up a huge hole to the left and allowing Vick to take off for a big gain.
  • 1st & GOAL: Watkins has another great play, taking Edwards completely out of the play. McCoy scores.

Series #9 (PHI 14 BUF 28)

  • 1st & 10: Backed up against his own goal line, Watkins stumbles out of the snap and is unable to make much out of the play.
  • 2nd & 10: Together, with Herremans, Watkins double-teams Dareus and gives Vick enough time to complete a deep pass to Avant. However, an uncharacteristic fumble by Avant ends the drive. 

Series #10 (PHI 14 BUF 31)

  • 1st & 10: Sloppy blocking by Watkins and the rest of the interior line lets Dareus flush Vick out to the left.
  • 1st & 10: After initially double-teaming Dareus, Watkins focuses his attention on an incoming Kyle Williams, allowing Dareus to slip into the backfield and force Vick to throw the ball away. Not really Watkins' fault here since Kelce couldn't handle his man.
  • 2nd & 10: Watkins was a step behind, here. allowing his man to slip into the backfield and get a hand on McCoy.

4th Quarter

  • 1st & 10: Watkins looked like he didn't even touch a defender on that play. Vick was swarmed almost immediately, but managed to get the ball out to DeSean for a touchdown.

Series #11 (PHI 21 BUF 31)

  • 1st & 10: Again, not much for Watkins to do here, but he helps out Herremans effectively.
  • 2nd & 4: There's Watkins on Dareus again. He's had his number for practically the entire game. The result of the play is a big completion to DeSean.
  • 1st & 10: Great job by Watkins, taking care of Carrington and then sprinting downfield in case McCoy needed a block.
  • 1st & GOAL: Watkins completely misses Barnett, who makes it into the backfield.
  • 2nd & GOAL: Big mistake by Watkins here. His blatant hands-to-the-face penalty on Dareus negates a Michael Vick touchdown. Couldn't have come at a worse time.
  • 2nd & GOAL: Watkins begins to struggle. He allows Dareus to push him far into the backfield, where Dareus and LB Arthur Moats chase Vick to the right sideline and out of bounds.
  • 2nd & GOAL: Watkins has another bad snap, letting Dareus blow past him and get a hand on McCoy. Could the pressure be starting to affect his play?
  • 3rd & GOAL: Dareus again pushes Watkins into the backfield, but Watkins is fortunately able to keep him off of Vick and bring him to the ground.

Final Series (PHI 24 BUF 31)

  • 1st & 10: This clip is missing, too. I gotta fire my video guy.
  • 2nd & 2: Watkins gets a good initial push on Dareus, but then apparently forgets about him and ends up being taken out of the play after Kelce backs into him. Sloppy.
  •  1st & 10: Does a poor job of stopping Carrington, who chases Vick all the way to the left sideline.
  • 1st & 10: Watkins makes up for the last play by stopping Carrington dead in his tracks.
  • 1st &10: Gets pushed back with the rest of the offensive line, but allows Vick just enough time to complete the pass.
  • 1st & 10: Doesn't do much, but does a good job of getting downfield and putting himself in a position to block the safety if DeSean ended up breaking free.
  • 2nd & 7: Picks up the blitz, getting just enough of a hit to keep Carrington from being involved and then taking on the safety.
  • 3rd & 3: Throws a solid block on Edwards, to take him out of the play, but in a freak occurrence, Avant coughs up the ball for a second time. The Eagles' offense will not see the ball again. Game over.

Final Thoughts

Watkins certainly had a roller coaster of a day, showing sparks of his first-round status at times, yet appearing to look lost at other times. He truly seemed to feel the pressure late in the game, and some would argue that his touchdown-nullifying penalty in the fourth quarter ultimately cost the Eagles their chance at a comeback.

However, keep in mind that, for all of Watkins' ups and downs over the course of the game, he kept Marcell Dareus - the third overall pick of this year's draft - from recording a single tackle, sack, or batted pass throughout the entire four quarters. In fact, he was part of an Eagles offensive line that only gave up a single recorded sack - although the pressure they allowed resulted in four interceptions.

As Watkins continues to accumulate playing time as a starter, his confidence - which has been suspect so far - will continue to grow. He has the makings of a solid starting right guard for this team and, if pushed in the right direction, could eventually develop into the stabilizing force that the Eagles' interior offensive line so desperately needs. However, for now, he still has a long way to go.

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