Eagles start answering questions in preseason opener vs. Ravens

Posted: August 11, 2011

BETHLEHEM - Danny Watkins has never seen an NFL game in person. Tonight, he will. From a vantage point few first-timers get to enjoy.

That nice Mr. Lewis in the No. 52 Baltimore Ravens jersey? Danny, you'll want to wait until after the game to ask for an autograph. Just a word to the wise.

"I'm going to try not to be a tourist," said Watkins, the Eagles' rookie starting right guard. "It's going to be a business trip. That's how I'm going to take it . . . I'm going to take it serious, and, hopefully, do well."

Watkins, of course, grew up in British Columbia, never played football before 4 years ago. Somehow, during 2 years at Baylor, he never made the less-than-2-hour drive from Waco up to Dallas for a Cowboys game. (Something else for Eagles fans to like about the guy.)

"Obviously, there's still a lot of things I've got to work on," said Watkins, who reported to camp the night of Aug. 1, after a contract impasse was resolved. "It's just going to come with time."

Has he thought about what his preseason debut in front of the home crowd will be like?

"I'm trying not to," Watkins said. "I'll let you know after the game."

Another rookie making his first start would be the middle linebacker, fourth-round pick Casey Matthews. Matthews is the son, grandson, brother and nephew of NFL players. He has seen quite a few NFL games in person.

"I'm sure he's a little nervous, but he'll be fine after the first play," Matthews said of Watkins.

Matthews will be wearing a headset, calling plays, 2 weeks into his NFL career.

"I'm ready," he said. "Obviously, it was something new coming in here, but I've gotten used to it. Looking forward to a little something different," playing in a game. "I'm feeling more comfortable every rep I take."

This also will be fans' first look at the biggest offseason acquisition, free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha said he is curious, having signed after the team reported to Lehigh and having gotten little sense of Philadelphia so far.

"The atmopshere is different [from Oakland] in practice, but I'm not sure how different the atmosphere is in games," Asomugha said. "No sense of it. All I know right now is Bethlehem, Pennsylvania."

Second-round rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, from Temple, has played at Lincoln Financial Field before, but not wearing an Eagles jersey.

"I'm not running out the tunnel as an Owl anymore, I'm running out as an Eagle," Jarrett said. "It's going to be real exciting to run out that tunnel and see that stadium filled."

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo told reporters they wouldn't really "see" Jarrett until there is live hitting, until he can tackle. Tonight is that time.

"I try to be as physical as possible whenever I get the opportunity to," Jarrett said. "I like to play physical."

Eagles coach Andy Reid reiterated that the first team will play the first quarter. He said the second team, quarterbacked by Vince Young, will take the second quarter, and the second half will feature a cast of thousands, more or less, with the new 90-man rosters and Reid vowing that everyone will get into the game, so they will be on film for future employment opportunities.

"With the young guys and the influx of free agents - and this is the way it is around the league right now - I think there's going to be some learning going on out there," Reid said. "It might not be quite as crisp as [normal] . . . but, at the same time, you're going to have great energy and guys will be flying around. As coaches, we've cut the package down for them so that they can show their talents a little bit."

Young started practicing with the Eagles on Friday, so this is a very early debut for someone trying to master the quarterback position in Reid's offense. Young said he will wear a play chart on his wrist guard, as QBs often do these days.

Young said he plans to wear the wristband chart "until I get comfortable with the plays. Then we'll go from there."

"I just want to get a rhythm," Young said. "Go out there and make calls, get guys going and ready to play. Not trying to do too much . . . I want to show coaches the things I've been studying and preparing myself for, let it go out there on the football field."

Young said his grasp of the offense is "a work in progress."


The Eagles announced that safety Marlin Jackson underwent sports hernia surgery, defensive end Victor Abiamiri had Achilles' tendon surgery. Abiamiri is already on injured reserve, but the Eagles hope Jackson can rehab and play . . . Wide receiver DeSean Jackson said: "I should be ready by the next preseason game," a week from tonight in Pittsburgh . . . Also not in action tonight are defensive end Brandon Graham (knee), right tackle Winston Justice (knee), defensive tackle Trevor Laws (hip), defensive tackle Brandon Collier (ankle), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (illness) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (brain AVM). Wide receiver Sinorice Moss (groin) is hoping to play, Andy Reid said . . . Reid said Jamaal Jackson will start at center . . . Reid said Patterson is still undergoing tests . . . "Football is back," Michael Vick said, when asked about the preseason opener. "This is what it's all about." But Vick agreed with a questioner that the quality of play is likely to be "like a scrimmage" . . . It's Juan Castillo's first game as defensive coordinator, but Reid said: "I won't be watching Juan. I'll be watching those guys [the players]."

For more Eagles coverage

and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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