Reid stopped short of saying Kelly showed enough on Sunday against Atlanta to supplant Watkins on the depth chart, but he also did not say Watkins would be keeping his job. He also said he "saw progress" with the offensive line.
"We'll see how he feels once he gets in there and take it from there," Reid said of Watkins. "We'll see how he does."
Watkins was not limping in the locker room post-practice on Thursday. Many conspiracy theorists have wondered whether his ankle injury is little more than a coverup for his poor performances this season. He was the Eagles' curious first selection (23rd overall) in 2011 at the ripe age of 26, drafted high out of Baylor after not picking up football until age 22.
For Watkins, it has been a bumpy road since arriving in Philadelphia. He was projected to start at guard as a rookie but was inactive for three of the first four games last season in favor of waiver-wire pickup Kyle DeVan.
"He has an ankle injury," Reid said with emphasis to try and set the record straight. "Sprained ankle. He has a bit of a component of a high-ankle, and then it has a bit of component of a low ankle. Anything that he does lateral hurts him. He's good straight ahead, but any movement where he has to plant and drive off it, he can't do that."
Reid said last week that he knew of Watkins' chronic ankle injury from his college days. He reinjured it 2 weeks ago against the Lions and again in practice last week.
"This will pass here," Reid said. "It's not where it's going to be career-ending or anything like that."
Meanwhile, Kelly has enjoyed his transition from tackle - where he's played his entire life - to guard under offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Kelly is a 6-8 beast of a man who was viewed as a raw talent when the Eagles nabbed him in the fifth round last spring.
"I think I fit that [guard] mold. I like to consider myself aggressive and tough," Kelly said. "It is more of a dogfight inside, instead of outside where you're dancing with the real athletes.
"It's definitely different. But with Howard's system, there are a lot more similarities. You're much more aggressive, you're obviously in a smaller space, and it's a lot faster."
Kelly gave himself an honest evaluation, admitting he was nervous at first but soon settled into his role.
"I thought I was very aggressive," Kelly said. "I took the techniques that Howard has been preaching and I think I executed them pretty well. I was a little unhappy how I did with blockers on the second level, dealing with linebackers."
He cited one play in particular, in the red zone, in which LeSean McCoy was tackled for loss where he was disappointed.
"I opened up too much and crossed my feet and the 'backer went right under me," Kelly explained. "I just have to be more disciplined with going over in open space. Got unbalanced."
According to ProFootballFocus.com, McCoy ran behind Kelly once on Sunday for 7 of his 45 yards on the day, producing an extra 2 yards after contact. Kelly also allowed Michael Vick to be hit once and hurried once. As a whole, the Eagles were tackled four times for loss on Sunday, something Reid said needs to change.
"We have to do better there," Reid said. "Some of it has been on the outside run game, where we're getting penetration there. Whether it is a safety up, we have to do a better job of getting a body on a body and securing the line."
Kelly surmised that the offensive line's biggest problems came at the worst times against the Falcons. The Eagles were 6-for-13 on third downs.
"When we did poorly, they were on important plays - be it a third and short," Kelly said. "They were in positions where if we succeed, we'd be able to continue a drive and get the momentum. It was the impact plays that we struggled on which ended up being the difference."
Permanent role or not, Kelly aims to continue building his confidence - regardless of how long Watkins is out.
"Obviously, Danny is hurt, but there were other options that they could have put in," Kelly said. "Hopefully I can run with it. I'm obviously trying to help the team win, but if I can win a starting spot, that would be great."
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