After sitting out practice on Thursday and Friday, right guard Danny Watkins has been listed as "doubtful" for Sunday's game against Atlanta. The Eagles will continue to treat Watkins in the athletic training room on Saturday into Sunday, but if he does not come around, the Eagles are prepared to start fifth-round draft pick Dennis Kelly at the position.
Kelly started for three seasons at left tackle at Purdue, and took most of his preseason reps at tackle, although the Eagles did work him into the guard position during practices to make him as versatile as possible. He started at left tackle in the preseason game at Cleveland and has seen backup time in two games during the regular season.
"Any player who is playing at this level, you have to have confidence in him," said quarterback Michael Vick, who potentially has two new starters (King Dunlap at left tackle and Kelly at right guard) in front of him since the last game, two weeks ago against Detroit.
Head coach Andy Reid said that Watkins suffers from a "chronic" ankle injury that flared up in the Detroit game. Watkins practiced both on Monday and Wednesday, and Reid said he noticed that Watkins was feeling the injury.
While Reid could have shuffled his offensive linemen around, he is confident in Kelly's ability to play well at right guard Sunday. Kelly is eager to repay that faith with a great performance.
"It's exciting," Kelly said. "It's very humbling that the coach trusts me like that. Hopefully I just perform to the level they want and don't let them down."
Kelly would join a rookie class that has been extremely involved already this season. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychal Kendricks already start, and cornerback/return man Brandon Boykin is a starter at nickel cornerback and on kickoff returns. Bryce Brown as also seen some time as the No. 2 running back behind LeSean McCoy.
Watkins, the Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2011, started the final 12 games last year and all six games this season after making the conversion from collegiate left tackle at Baylor to right guard at the NFL level.
Reid said he didn't think that Watkins' injury was a long-term situation, but that the Eagles wanted to make sure he was completely healthy before playing.
In Kelly, Reid sees a "tough" player who is a good athlete and who bends well to compensate for his height. Kelly is 6 feet 7 and Dunlap is 6 feet 9, so Vick has to be on his game on Sunday working the pocket to find throwing lanes.