Tag:Danny Watkins
Posted on: September 6, 2011 1:57 pm

Cooley: Eagles are 'team to beat' in NFC East

Skins TE Chris Cooley calls Eagles "the team to beat" in the NFC East. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Chris Cooley is a lot of things -- a Pro Bowler, an artist and perhaps, above all else, brutally honest.

The Redskins tight end joined 106.7 The Fan in DC to talk about the upcoming season, which is now just two days away (!). And when he was asked about the NFC East, Cooley didn't rattle off the usual "Everybody's 0-0, we're going to give 110 percent but only while taking it one day at a time" cliches. Instead he told the truth and, well, it was a refreshing change of pace.

“I think Philly’s the team to beat, looking at what they’ve done right now," Cooley said, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "But when you look at the NFL and you look at the East, everyone can be very good. I wouldn’t be surprised, any way, to see New York and Dallas both being excellent football teams. It’s a tough division and it always will be, but when you look at what Philly did and when you look at the players they have and coming off the year they had last year, I think they’re a very good football team. Obviously we’re not the team to beat based on the way we played last year and what we’ve done over the past couple years.”

Couldn't agree more. But for some reason, it's taboo to say such things publicly, even if everybody's thinking it.

While no one disputes that the Eagles are the preseason front runners, they're not without issues. Michael Vick might insist that you can't design a defense to stop him, but we don't think he was taking his suspect offensive line into account when he made those comments.

We wrote last week that Philly drafted Danny Watkins in the first round and immediately installed him at right guard. Watkins, 26, was considered the most NFL-ready o-lineman in the 2011 draft, which is exactly why the Eagles selected him with the 23rd overall pick. But like most rookies, the transition hasn't been easy. "It's definitely overwhelming. That's for sure. Compared to what I was doing before this, I was just a regular working guy," said Watkins, a former firefighter in West Kelowana, British Columbia. "Now, I've got microphones stuffed in my face and everything. It's an adjustment, that's for sure, in every aspect."

Watkins was playing next to right tackle King Dunlap early in the preseason but that didn't last; left guard Todd Herremans replaced Dunlap at right tackle last week and Evan Mathis took over for Herremans at left guard. Oh, and Philly's starting a rookie center in Jason Kelce.

And that, along with new and improved* Rex Grossman now quarterbacking the Redskins, has Cooley thinking that, even if the Eagles are the team to beat, the NFC East is wide open.

“Yeah I have no question -- any team could win the division now. You could say any team would win it and I wouldn’t be surprised.”

* mileage may vary

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:36 pm

Vick: 'You canít design a defense to stop me'

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Michael Vick has a new contract that will pay him somewhere in the neighborhood $100 million over six years. After the season he had in 2010, and all the additions to the roster this summer, it doesn't take much imagination to see that the Eagles are one of the NFL's best teams. Which is also what they were eight months ago until they ran into the Green Bay Packers.

But Vick appears more mature now, both on and off the field, and that portends only good things for the Eagles. (Although who knows if all of Andy Reid's shiny new weapons will be enough to combat the karmic curse bestowed on the team when Vince Young called them the "Dream Team.")

In addition to wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, tight end Brent Celek and running back LeSean McCoy -- who were all with the team last year -- the Eagles have added Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown, the aforementioned Young, and on defense, cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jason Babin. Not a bad haul considering free agency was squeezed into the 15 minutes between the end of the lockout and the start of training camps.

But sometimes lost in Vick's accomplishments last season is that he struggled down the stretch. After starting 2010 with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first seven starts, Vick tossed 11 touchdowns and seven picks in his last six games -- including the playoff loss to the Packers. And he looked awful against the Steelers in a preseason game two weeks ago when he threw three first-half interceptions. Still, he sounds as confident as ever.

Talking to Yahoo.com's Michael Silver, Vick said last month that "You can’t design a defense to stop me, especially not on this team. We have so many weapons, and some teams have tried to make that their primary focus. That’s when we run up the score.”

On paper, he's right. Philly's roster is stacked with playmakers. The problem, of course, is that the offensive line is a mess, and there's no sign that it'll magically fix itself before the regular season.

No matter, head coach Andy Reid sounds as optimistic as his quarterback.

“People can say there’s a way to stop Michael Vick, but this is a team sport. You’ve got this beautiful mind of (offensive coordinator) Marty (Mornhinweg)’s and you’ve got to deal with what he’s gonna throw at you, and there are all these other players you have to defend. You can say you’re gonna stop Michael Vick, but you’ve got to stop the whole group.”

Again we'd like to point out the issues along the o-line.

The Eagles drafted Danny Watkins in the first round and immediately installed him at right guard. He was playing next to right tackle King Dunlap early in the preseason but that didn't last; left guard Todd Herremans replaced Dunlap at right tackle last week and Evan Mathis took over for Herremans at left guard. Oh, and Philly's starting a rookie center in Jason Kelce.

None of this is to say that the Eagles can't overcome an inexperienced front five (the Steelers annually manage to do it, the difference being that Ben Roethlisberger seems to enjoy getting hit), it just makes playing consistent football problematic. An offense built on timing and precision is suddenly thrown out of whack when the quarterback is running for his life.

So while there may not be a defense on the planet that can stop Vick, opponents only have to worry about making things difficult for the Eagles' o-line. Because when the protection breaks down Vick isn't nearly as dangerous.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 26, 2011 10:00 am

Michael Vick defends Eagles' offensive line

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The "Dream Team" label (epitaph?) bestowed on the Eagles by backup quarterback Vince Young has already become a tedious subplot to a season that is still two weeks away. But this is what happens when ordinary people make extraordinary observations about a team that last won a championship in 1960.

There's no disputing that, on paper, the Eagles are a collection of fantastic players, but there's more to winning Super Bowls than the names on the roster. Abstract notions like team chemistry are also important and that's something you can't predict. The only way to see how a group will perform together is to put them on the field.

Last week against the Steelers, it wasn't pretty. Philadelphia had five turnovers -- including three Michael Vick first-half interceptions -- were thoroughly outplayed at every position, and the favorites to claim the NFC East looked more like an outfit primed to win the Andrew Luck Bowl. But that's why there's preseason; to work through the rough patches, make adjustments and try to get better.

Which is exactly what happened Thursday night. Against the Browns, the Eagles looked more like a team contending for a championship. They led 17-0 at the half and won easily, 24-14. That said, it wasn't a flawless performance. Issues that were exposed the week before in Pittsburgh were mitigated but not eliminated against Cleveland. Chief among them: Inconsistencies along the offensive line.

Vick's ability to avoid the pass rush certainly helps, but he's not built to take a beating on a weekly basis from now till January. Put differently: Philly's one play away from their Dream Team hopes ironically falling into Young's lap.

The Eagles have rookies Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins starting at center and right guard, and King Dunlap trying to get up to speed at right tackle. Vick, who was sacked just once but spent a nontrivial part of the evening running for his life, after the game defended the five guys tasked with keeping him upright (via the Philadelphia News' Les Bowen).

"The minute you start to get down on a player, or down-talk 'em, then that's when they lose confidence," Vick said afterward, under pointed questioning about the blocking.

"Regardless of who it is, I'm going to give defenses fits anyway. Just plain and simple, saying that out of confidence, not arrogance."

Vick's right. The problem, however, is that when he's pressuring defenses with his legs he's much more susceptible to injury. We saw it last season when he suffered a rib injury against the Redskins on a long scramble and ended up missing four games. But it's also a huge part of why he's so dangerous. Plus, given the steep learning curve currently facing the right side of Philly's o-line, Vick may not be much safer in the pocket. To his credit, he's sticking up for his teammates.

"You can't expect a guy to come in and be a Pro Bowl player in two games. That's just not the way this thing works," he said, according to Bowen. "We started out a little shaky, but we got it together," Vick said. "You have to take what the defense gives you . . . You've just got to let it develop."

You also have to take what your o-line gives you. And for now, Vick's able to do that.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: June 15, 2011 2:05 pm

Hot Routes 6.15.11: Pryor in the first round?!?

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • If former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor actually did go in the first round of the NFL supplemental draft, CBSSports.com’s own Rob Rang writes that agent Drew Rosenhaus would really have earned his money.
  • If you like to smoke while watching Bills games in person, you’re going to have to change your habits. The Bills have announced that smoking is banned at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Also, since there is no re-entry policy, you can’t leave to smoke and then return.
  • This was my favorite part of the AP story detailing the Bengals player-led workouts. They even clean up after themselves. Following a full-team practice last week at UC, quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Andy Dalton filled their arms with water bottles and blocking pads and headed for the storage area. Palmer couldn't recall the last time he's had to put the equipment away. “It's been a while," he said.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 2:05 pm

Hot Routes 5.4.11 Post-draft bragging

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

Sydney Moss, star high school basketball player in Kentucky and daughter of Randy Moss, has made an oral commitment to the Florida Gators.

Less than a week after leaving Monday Night Football, sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya is joining Sunday Night Football.

Tashard Choice had a bin Laden tweet issue, as well. Unlike Rashard Mendenhall’s Choice’s was unintentional.

Tony Romo is once again trying to qualify for the US Open.

Redskins third-round pick Leonard Hankerson calls himself the best wide receiver in the draft.

And on a similar tiring note, Ravens first-round pick Jimmy Smith thinks he was the best cornerback in the draft. (And, of course, he also has naysayers he wants to prove wrong. Ironically, by boasting like this, the controversial Smith is so far proving his naysayers right.)

Free agent linebacker Kirk Morrison is open to a return to Jacksonville. (It’s a matter of whether the Jags want him.)

Andy Reid says Todd Herremans is unlikely to leave the left guard position. That means first-round rookie Danny Watkins will play on the right side. It’s very, very uncommon to see a first-round pick used on a right guard. Eagles had that need, though.

The Vikings still need a stadium site in order to push a bill for a new venue.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com