Kelowna’s Danny Watkins and Calgary’s Nate Burleson are poised for bounce-back seasons.
A coaching change in Philadelphia has former first-round pick Danny Watkins reenergized and ready to prove he is an NFL starter.
Injuries and poor play had Watkins relegated to the sidelines last season, but according to a Phillymag.com blog by Tim McManus the 28-year-old former fire fighter from Kelowna is running with the first team during organized team activities.
Entering his third pro season he’s back on the left side of the line, where he played in college. According to McManus Watkins has also been told by new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly that there is no depth chart to start.
McManus also writes that Watkins is also relieved to be working with a different line coach – Jeff Stoutland instead of Howard Mudd.
“I struggled with Howard, and his coaching and some of his concepts,” Watkins admitted to McManus. “But that’s not his fault, that’s on me — that’s my responsibility to get better and do what I need to do. But this is more of a conventional type of offense in the pass protection and run progressions so it feels a lot better.”
“Danny is a winner,” Stoutland told CSNPhilly.com’s John Gonzalez. “You can win with Danny. He’s very athletic. With offensive linemen, you look to see if they have the appropriate size. Then you want to make sure they’re explosive and they have good athleticism. These guys on the other side of the ball, they’re all athletes and they have tremendous explosiveness to them. You have to have guys on the offensive line that can compete with that. He has that.”
Watkins, the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 draft, told McManus that he “absolutely” worked out extra hard this offseason and focused on his conditioning in anticipation of Kelly’s up-tempo stylings, and that he remained in Philadelphia during the offseason so that he could meet the new coaches and get an understanding of what they were looking for.
“I feel more comfortable,” Watkins told McManus. “I want to start and I want to play. I’m going to go wherever they tell me to go, and do whatever I need to do. I’m having a good time out here and enjoying it. Last year was a bit of a drag but it’s water under the bridge and I don’t have a rearview mirror.
“You don’t want to dwell too much on the past, but you’ve got to learn from it.”
Fellow Canadian Nate Burleson has also worked hard this offseason, hoping to win back his first string job with the Detroit Lions.
Burleson, 31, broke his leg late last season but Mlive.com’s Anwar S. Richardson recently reported that Burleson is ready to make a big comeback.
According to Richardson the Calgary native (Burleson was born in Calgary while his father played for the CFL Stampeders) has worked extra hard to not only be on the field during organized team activities (OTAs), but also be three months ahead of schedule.
Burleson’s off-season rehabilitation involved twice-a-day workouts, without his team’s knowledge, to speed up the process.
“I wanted to surprise everybody,” Burleson told Richardson. “I wanted to come back and run three months ahead of schedule. I didn’t go through the depression stage. When you’re watching guys like Adrian Peterson come back from ACLs so fast, I can’t put my head down and cry in a corner.
“I had to go out there and bust my ass, really. When I came back, it was either sit on the sidelines and watch these young guys try to take my position, or come back and prove I’m still one of the best complements to Calvin (Johnson). I’m trying to do that.”
Richardson reports that Burleson has not shown any lingering effects from last season’s injury, running with the first-team offense, showing initial quickness, and even dropping a few pounds to add more speed to his game.
“He’s had a great rehab, and we expected that from Nate,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz told Richardson. “Over the course of his career, he’s been a fast healer. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like to put time tables on guys, because whether he’s ahead of schedule, or if he was behind, it’s up to the individual player and his body and how he’s doing. That’s the way we’ve judged Nate. We judged him individually on how he’s doing not based on what other people have done with that same injury, but he’s healed quickly. He’s a very, very tough guy, and he’s rehabbed very hard.
“He means a lot to our football team. It’s important to have him out there for our offense for a lot of reasons. Number one, he’s a good player. He brings something to the equation that goes beyond what his playing ability is. He still probably isn’t 100-percent, but a lot of guys aren’t 100-percent right now, but he’s able to do able to do what he can out there, and it’s a good time of year. Maybe if it was a full-contact training camp practice, he might not be out there doing that stuff. But we don’t have any contact, and our practices are short. He’s able to get some work done.”