When Danny Watkins wrapped up his rookie season with the Eagles, he met with his coaches to go over a "lengthy" list of personal goals for 2012.
The coaches had nothing to add. Now, it's time for Watkins to fulfill the promise that made him the Eagles' first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in 2011.
Give Watkins this much credit. He has spent virtually the entire offseason at the NovaCare Complex. Sure, he's taken time to purchase a fire truck which he plans to drive to home games this season, but the firefighter-turned-offensive guard wants to build upon the success that he had as a rookie.
Watkins took over the starting job in the Week 5 game in Buffalo and never looked back. Watkins and center Jason Kelce became the first Eagles rookie linemen duo to start 10-or-more games in the same season. The 6-3, 310-pound Watkins was called for just five penalties in his 12 starts and allowed only one sack, per Stats Inc. Watkins earned All-Rookie Team honors from Pro Football Weekly.
"I'm just building from the skills and techniques that I learned last year," Watkins said. "I want to move forward and get better and help the team do big things here."
The 27-year-old Watkins freely admits the transition from college to the NFL was a tough one last year. On top of the expectations that are heaped upon a top draft pick, Watkins did not get the typical offseason to adjust to his new life and surroundings. Watkins signed his rookie contract at Lehigh University after training camp was already underway.
"I think that first rookie season can be taxing on guys, for sure," Watkins said. "Obviously, because of the lockout I didn't have this opportunity (to work out at the facility) last year. In hindsight, looking back, it would have been pretty nice to have this. It's definitely a big help, that's for sure."
Upon his arrival at training camp, Watkins was immediately penciled into the starting lineup. One week before the season opener in St. Louis, the Eagles claimed guard Kyle DeVan off waivers from the Colts. Well versed in offensive line coach Howard Mudd's technique, DeVan started the first four games of the season as Watkins, who played left tackle at Baylor, adapted to the right guard spot.
The Eagles made sure that the interior of the offensive line would remain intact for 2012 when they re-signed left guard Evan Mathis to a five-year deal earlier this offseason. Watkins described Mathis' deal as a "pretty key" move for the Eagles.
"The chemistry that we developed towards the end of last season I'm hoping we're going to be able to keep that consistency and that cohesiveness through this offseason and bring it into the season," Watkins said. "I think it's going to be pretty important for us."
Watkins wraps up another workout at the NovaCare Complex. He will not be on the field for the rookie mini-camp this coming weekend. He is preparing to dominate once the Organized Team Activities get underway and begin checking off the items on that "lengthy" list.
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