With the hiring of Chip Kelly, there is no more need to rationalize the mistakes of the Andy Reid era. Watkins, fairly or otherwise, became symbolic of that era’s final unraveling.
His release wasn’t even surprising. The only eyebrows raised Saturday were at the departures of wide receiver Russell Shepard and tight end/receiver Clay Harbor. They both had better preseasons than Watkins. The Eagles also released safety David Sims and offensive tackle Michael Bamiro.
The Eagles were a playoff team in 2010. Going into the 2011 draft, they were looking to fill a few key needs in order to remain a perennial contender. With the 23rd pick, they took Watkins, a guard from Baylor with an unusual backstory: A Canadian, Watkins didn’t start playing football until he was 22 years old. He was a 26-year-old rookie.
The Eagles went 8-8 in 2011. They went 4-12 last year. Reid was fired. Kelly was hired.
Of the 11 players taken in that draft, just 30 months ago, only center Jason Kelce and kicker Alex Henery are in the starting lineup. Fifth-round pick Julian Vandervelde, who was released last year and re-signed, is the backup center.
Second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett is long gone. He started at safety for the Jets Thursday night. Third-round cornerback Curtis Marsh and fourth-round linebacker Casey Matthews are on the bubble and could be gone by opening day.
Watkins started 12 games as an overmatched rookie. He started six games last season. He never clicked with Howard Mudd, the coach Reid brought in to revamp the offensive line’s approach. With Kelly and new line coach Jeff Stoutland, Watkins was pretty much a non-entity all summer.
Now he’s gone and, with him, so is another reminder of what went wrong under Reid.
As for other known cuts:
Harbor became endangered in May, when Kelly asked him to work out at linebacker during OTAs. He moved back to tight end, then started taking reps at wide receiver early in camp.
Shepard got a really close look this summer. He seemed like a good bet to make the 53-man roster.
The 6-foot-8, 340-pound Bamiro was not eligible for the draft. The Eagles signed him in July. With his size and natural ability, he will almost certainly be on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Sims started one game at safety last season. He never really became a factor in what turned out to be a lackluster competition for a starting job.