Believe it or not, one aspect of this Sunday's game that could be looked at as a challenge for rookie first-round pick Danny Watkins is considered to him an afterthought.
The Eagles will travel to St. Louis to open the season Sunday against the Rams in the Edward Jones Dome which holds 66,000 fans. While it won't match the fervor of the 2001 NFC title game, Rams fans have a lot to be excited for with former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo as head coach and promising quarterback Sam Bradford.
But Watkins, who played for the past two years as an offensive tackle at Baylor, said that the noise is not something he's concerned with.
"This isn't my first time playing in a dome. Honestly, that is the very last thing that I'm worried about. In college you were playing in stadiums with 100,000 people," Watkins said. "It doesn't bother me at all."
Watkins is relatively new to the game of football after picking it up only four years ago in junior college. With the Eagles, Watkins is adjusting to a new position at right guard as well as dealing with the pressure of producing as a first-round pick.
Craving more reps before the start of the season, Watkins volunteered to play the preseason finale - usually a night off for starters - against the Jets and was on the field for three series. Between the extra reps and the added time to prepare for Sunday's opener, Watkins feels a "lot more prepared" for protecting Michael Vick.
"I'm already feeling a lot better about it. The preparation and the work that we've already put in started a little bit last week," Watkins said. "I'm already feeling a little more confident about it. Each week it's been getting a little bit better. There's definitely some areas I need to improve on."
The Eagles added insurance along the offensive line when they claimed veteran guard Kyle DeVan off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. DeVan played for Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd in Indianapolis and started 25 games (including playoffs) for the Colts. Watkins said he is happy to have someone who can teach him the X's and O's of the position from the player's point of view.
"It's already reassuring," Watkins said. "I'm already able to speak with him and draw from experiences he's had. It's helping that's for sure."
But Watkins knows that if he doesn't get the job done, DeVan is someone who can step in.
"I'm just looking at this as a weekly thing. I have to keep pushing and grinding. Nothing's guaranteed here. I have to keep working away and produce," Watkins said. "I hold myself to a high standard and I want to be able to do my best and be a critical part of the team here."
There will be a number of challenges as Watkins embarks in his first NFL contest. Hopefully, he is right and the crowd is not one of them.
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