By Kevin McGuire
Protecting quarterback Mike Vick may have just become more of a problem for the Philadelphia Eagles. Already thinning on offensive line this season, the Eagles have listed offensive guard Danny Watkins as doubtful for Sunday afternoon’s game against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons due to a chronic ankle injury. Watkins will be evaluated on a day-by-day basis, but the Eagles will likely need to fill another hole on the offensive line this weekend.
With Watkins likely unavailable this weekend, the Eagles are hoping to see a strong performance from 22-year old rookie Dennis Kelly, who will be in line to make his first career start. Andy Reid was asked about not moving King Dunlap to the inside and the head coach confirmed he trusts the rookie from Purdue.
“We’ve given Kelly reps and we have trust in him,” Reid said Friday afternoon. “Rather than moving three guys around, you move one and you go with it.”
Kelly saw plenty of playing time in college, which was pointed out by Reid when explaining the decision to give the rookie a start in a tough spot.
“Well you saw a four-year starter at Purdue, mostly at left tackle. A smart kid, tough kid, great size and strength, so you give him an opportunity now.”
For his part, Kelly is excited and enthusiastic about the chance to start, and knowing the coach has publicly shown as much trust in him already despite having some other options to work with, has Kelly wanting to continue to prove he is the right guy for the job this weekend.
It’s exciting, and it’s very humbling to know that the coach trusts me like that,” Kelly said to reporters Friday afternoon. “Hopefully, I just perform to the level that I want and I won’t let him down.”
Kelly already has earned the respect of his teammates, including right tackle Todd Herremans, who will line up next to Kelly on the line.
“I think he’s a really good football player,” Herremans said. “He works hard and he doesn’t say much. He’s athletic and he’s very big. He’s a very big body that we have in there. He can reach out to the tight end from the guard. He’s had a good week of practice and I’m excited to just get out there with him.”
The Eagles hope to see Watkins back on the field soon and Reid believes the ankle injury may not have a long-term effect on Watkins and the offensive line. This week the defensive line could also be a little roughed up, with defensive end Phillip Hunt listed as questionable with a calf injury and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton listed as probable with a hand injury. Neither player is a starter so the only concern would be depth if one of the first string players happens to go down.
Safeties Nate Allen (hamstring) and Colt Anderson (knee) are listed as probable as well and retain their spots on the depth chart, with Allen expected to start and Anderson playing second team duty as well as special teams. Kurt Coleman also remains first on the depth chart at free safety despite but is listed officially as probable for this weekend with a shoulder injury.
Safety Nate Allen (hamstring)
Safety Colt Anderson (knee)
Free Safety Kurt Coleman (shoulder)
Long Snapper Jon Dorenbos (ankle)
Defensive Tackle Cedric Thornton (hand)
Defensive End Phillip Hunt (calf)
Offensive Guard Danny Watkins (ankle)
Kevin McGuire covers college football for Examiner.com and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinOnCFB). His work can be found on Examiner.com.