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Watkins Now Part Of A New Football Family

Posted May 19, 2014

Jaylen Watkins, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick (101st overall), is not as heralded as his younger brother, Sammy, but his intelligence and versatility should enable him to stick for a long time in the NFL.

Said versatility won’t come into play immediately, however, as he will start his Eagles career as a cornerback.

“That’s what I’ve been playing my whole life,” Watkins said. “I was recruited to play it at Florida. Initially, that’s what I played the first three years, and even my last year I played a little bit of it. Safety was something that came along just kind of naturally, so I’m still growing at the position.”

The Eagles currently have a logjam of natural safeties on the roster, though it is not out of the question that Watkins could rotate to the position in certain subpackages when he’s on the field. That responsibility won’t be daunting for Watkins, whose football IQ was championed by head coach Chip Kelly as one of the reasons the Eagles valued him so highly.

“It was challenging just because it was a new position for me,” Watkins said of playing safety. “But it kind of just came so quickly – within a few weeks I grasped the defense and I was able to go in the game and produce just like the rest of our safeties.”

It has been a whirlwind past week for all the new draftees. Though it was a lot to process at first, however, Watkins and his fellow draftmates are starting to get comfortable with their new surroundings and Kelly’s way of doing things.

“Definitely, you feel like a freshman the first few days, but now they kind of have us in kind of like a routine,” Wakins said. “I’m pretty sure I can speak for everybody else, we feel like we’re a part of the team and we don’t feel like rookies, we all feel like a member of the Eagles.”

Watkins is already deep into his playbook and absorbing everything thrown his way.

“It’s been challenging, but that’s the best part about it,” Watkins said. “I’m learning a whole new defense. I was a starter for three years in my last defense so it was already there – every year you come in and you just go to work. But now I have to take a different mental approach to learning the plays and the speed outside of the field, so everything’s a little different.”

The NFL is an entirely different animal, but playing in the SEC, Watkins has experience going up against the nation’s very best wide receivers – one of whom is now his teammate.

“Jordan (Matthews) moves everywhere, so we had to find him wherever he lined up,” Watkins said. “One minute he’s at the X (receiver position), he’s at the Z, he’s their number two receiver, he’s their number three receiver. They found ways to get him the ball.”

Matthews is not the only Eagle with whom Watkins is already familiar, as he went to the same high school as safety Nate Allen, was taught by his mother and has a mentor on the team already.

“My first day here, (Allen) walked in and sat with me and told me how much he loved the staff and how everything’s really smooth here and there are great people around us and that I’ll be fine,” Watkins said. “As far as the playbook, when we’re on the field and watching them practice, he comes back and talks to me about what’s going on.”

He has been here less than a week, but Watkins is already figuring out what the Eagles are all about.

“Everybody’s really friendly,” Watkins said. “From my first day here, that’s the one thing I picked up. Everyone greets you, and I mean everyone – ‘Hey,’ ‘Hi,’ ‘How you doing?,’ ‘Good morning.’ That was different. Coming in, I thought I’d be the rookie and nobody would really try to get to know (me).”

Watkins might be a rookie, but he is part of the Eagles family now.

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