EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Thrust into action because of injuries to Bradley Fletcher and then Nolan Carroll II, rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins had his first extended playing time of the season just in time to make a final impression.
Watkins teamed with Cary Williams and nickel corner Brandon Boykin for long stretches in Sunday's 34-26 win over the New York Giants. And he sat in the locker room after the game happy for the experience.
"It was good to get my hands on some balls. I haven't played in 15 weeks so it was great to get out there and compete," said Watkins, the team's fourth-round draft pick last May. "I think I did good for my first time out there, for the most part."
Fletcher was inactive after suffering a hip injury during the week of training and Carroll replaced him in the starting lineup, with Watkins playing when the Eagles used six defensive backs. Carroll left the game for a stretch of time in the second half when he was being evaluated for a head injury.
Watkins was victimized on a 63-yard touchdown catch and run by wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who caught 12 passes for 185 yards and the score on an obscene 21 targets from quarterback Eli Manning. Watkins said he was trying to ride Beckham out of bounds, but Beckham used some leverage to break free from Watkins and force the rookie from Florida to lose his footing.
Otherwise, Watkins battled, was largely in good position and was credited with two tackles and a pass defensed.
"Seeing different releases from the wide receivers and getting used to the speed of the game and knowing that the quarterback was coming at me every time I took a wrong step, that was helpful," Watkins said. "It's definitely a good experience to have this now rather than going into next year and having it be my first game then."
While Manning threw for 429 yards, he completed only 28-of-53 passes and tossed just one touchdown. And Watkins was in coverage late in the game when Manning threw for Rueben Randle. Watkins had training coverage and safety Nate Allen was over the top. He was in the right place at the right time and picked off Manning, returned the ball 40 yards to the New York 18-yard line and sealed the victory for the Eagles.
"Being out there at the end was great," Watkins said. "I'm definitely excited. I'm going to build off of this and get better and better."
The Eagles conclude the 2014 season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants with an eye on reaching 10 wins for the second straight season ...