Danny Watkins, a tackle in college, was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. The expectation was that he could easily make the transition to right guard. Because he was 26 years old at the time, the idea was that it would be easy for him to become an immediate contributor on the offensive line, instead of taking a year or two to develop, as many younger players do. However, Watkins struggled to grasp offensive line coach Howard Mudd‘s system, and was eventually benched before the beginning of the season, in favor of free agent Kyle Devan.
In a bit of ironic fate, DeVan also struggled, leaving the Eagles little choice but to start Watkins four games into the season. Unfortunately, he played terribly, even for a rookie, allowing 23 quarterback hurries and committing five penalties in just 12 starts. Like many other rookies that struggle in their first year, Watkins was expected to improve and take charge of his role in 2012, but once again, another veteran, Jake Scott, replaced him by midseason.
Last weekend, in an effort to drop their roster to the required 53, the Eagles cut more than 20 players, one of which was Watkins. While many assumed he may retire due to his age and lack of production, he instead chose to sign with the Miami Dolphins.
The big question is simple; what does he bring to his new team, if anything?
If you take a look at the roster, you’ll notice that they’ve had a lot of turnover the last few years, maybe none of those bigger than the loss of Jake Long. While they’re being led by a good offensive line coach and have a lot of potential, they don’t have a lot of depth. John Jerry is your starter at right guard, but he’s average at best, especially in the Dolphins’ system, and has a problem staying healthy or even well-conditioned. Dallas Thomas is a rookie with potential, but struggled mightily in preseason. Ritchie Incongnito is a solid road-grader at left guard, and is the best interior offensive lineman on the team, but he’s only one man. And seeing as how the Dolphins gave up 37 sacks last season because of up-and-down line play, they could use all the help they could get.
Let’s get back to Watkins. We know that he didn’t light the world on fire in Philadelphia, but the one good thing is that he’s familiar with the West Coast Offense that the Dolphins use. He’s relatively young for a lineman, has good size (6-foot-3, 310 pounds), and he still has a lot of tread on the tires, so to speak. Miami also won’t be asking him to take on too much too fast, unless injuries force the issue.
Overall, Watkins is going to provide much needed depth for the Dolphins. If he can regain his first round status and become a future star at guard, that remains to be seen. Here’s hoping that he makes the most of what could be his last chance.