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Change Is The Constant In NFL

The world spins in mysterious ways in the NFL. Ask Joselio Hanson, who bounced around the league for a few years -- even spending time in Europe -- before finding a home with the Eagles. Well, he thought it was a home, until the Eagles released him on Saturday. In a stunning move announced on Wednesday morning, Hanson again joined the Eagles, signing a two-year contract.

What comes around, goes around.

Ranking slightly higher in the category of "shocking" was the news on Wednesday that No. 1 draft pick Danny Watkins was on the verge of being replaced in the starting lineup by Kyle DeVan, a player cut by the Colts whom the Eagles were awarded off of waivers on Sunday.

Head coach Andy Reid wouldn't confirm any personnel moves, but the chatter in the locker room grew into a chorus and became as close to fact as fact can be without an official word: DeVan will start at right guard against St. Louis despite taking not a single live snap with the rest of the starting offensive line here.

This is a change-on-the-fly NFL, no question about it. The teams that adjust most effectively are the ones that are going to have the best seasons. There is no blueprint for a season in which teams literally are still getting to know each other internally.

In hindsight, expecting Watkins to step right in and start was unfair to the kid. A left tackle in college, the Eagles moved him to right guard in the NFL. He had no post-draft mini-camp, no Organized Team Activities and no one-on-one work with offensive line coach Howard Mudd prior to training camp. Heck, contract talks kept Watkins away from Bethlehem, PA for the first week until he signed his deal.

So, how exactly did we think that Watkins would seamlessly step into the NFL's starting lineup?

The offensive line is clearly, absolutely, without a doubt, the largest question mark surrounding this football team. Mudd is a living legend in the coaching industry and he has himself a whopper of a challenge in front of him. At least now, with DeVan in and Watkins on the sideline, the Eagles have more players with NFL experience up front, players who can rely on their past to deal with the loud and raucous environment at the Edward Jones Dome.

Other than that, Mudd is going to have to keep it as simple as possible for his line. No fancy stuff. Plan the man in front of you. Communicate, and even over-communicate. Don't put quarterback Michael Vick in danger. Run the football well.

The Eagles are slated to start Jason Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, rookie Jason Kelce (one of our rookies to start on Sunday) at center, DeVan at right guard and Todd Herremans. Suddenly, Mathis is, like, 33rd on the fans' list of concerns for this game. He has been here all of about five weeks.

That the Eagles are making yet another move up front is a sign of the tremendous confidence they have in Mudd, one of the all-time greats. How he pulls together a line featuring Mathis, a starter in his career who has been solid and unremarkable; Kelce, a sixth-round draft pick from the University of Cincinnati; and DeVan, mostly a starter the last couple of seasons with the Colts is going to be fascinating.

Don't think the Eagles have set in stone anything with regard to their offensive line. They are still very, very high on Watkins, who conjures memories of former first-round draft pick Jermane Mayberry. Mayberry played in all of three games as a rookie, with one start. He was drafted as an offensive tackle and, recalling a highly publicized moment, was inactive for the opening game of his rookie season. Mayberry moved to guard and became a Pro Bowl player there.

Watkins has a long way to go to reach the Pro Bowl, but he has the requisite work ethic and talent and he is going to need some luck mixed in to get to that level. The Eagles aren't giving up on him, so please don't rush to judgment on Watkins for another year or two.

Second guessers, as is their nature, will question the Eagles taking Watkins in the first round in April when they had other options, even along the offensive line. That's fine. That's what you do. It's fair to wonder at this very moment.

But the Eagles have been able to add some veteran experience in both Mathis and DeVan, a tribute to general manager Howie Roseman and his staff. Now it is Mudd's job to get the offensive line prepared for a defense that is going to blitz, guaranteed, and a stadium that is as loud as any in the league.

Ah, the joy of opening a season. I'll tell you that the Eagles are a better team than they were a day ago, adding Hanson as a dime cornerback and a core member of the special teams. He is going to help this football team as he has done for years. And having DeVan, with 31 regular-season games played and 21 regular-season starts in the last two years, means the Eagles have some playing time with which to surround Kelce.

Are the Eagles ready to go? They will be on Sunday, at 1 p.m. They will spend the precious time between now and then making sure the players are confident in their calls and job responsibilities.

The one constant here is change. You don't go into a season with so little prep time and expect everything to be hunky-dory. There are hiccups along the way, and plenty of unexpected turns of events.

The Eagles had a couple of them to deal with on Wednesday -- one when they welcomed back a darn good football player to help in a variety of ways, and one to go in a different direction along an offensive line that has had more change than just about any group in the 32-team NFL since the 2010 season ended.

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