A MONTH AGO, Jaylen Watkins was an uncomfortable reminder of a really poor Eagles draft. He was toiling on the Buffalo Bills' practice squad, after having been selected by the Birds in the fourth round in 2014, then cut before the start of this season.
On Saturday, Watkins might be lining up opposite DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon as the Eagles try to keep their playoff hopes alive against Washington. Watkins ended up playing 49 defensive snaps Sunday night against Arizona, after both Eagles starting corners, Byron Maxwell and Eric Rowe, left the game in the first half with injuries. Maxwell sprained his SC joint, where the collarbone attaches to the sternum, a source close to the situation told the Daily News, and there is a good chance he misses this week's game. Rowe is in the NFL concussion protocol; there was no update on his status.
Watkins rejoined the Eagles Nov. 27, after starting corner Nolan Carroll suffered a season-ending broken fibula. Watkins had played just three defensive snaps this season, all at New England, before being thrown into the Sunday night fray, along with veteran backup E.J. Biggers. They fought the good fight, against the NFL's most potent offense. (Remember when the Eagles had the NFL's most potent offense? Good times.)
"I didn't think both of the starters would go down," Watkins said Sunday night. "I knew if one of those guys goes down, E.J. (replaces him, then) slides into our dime package and I go outside. Then Eric got the concussion, and I was like, 'OK, we've got to step up.' That's what this league is. For the most part, in coverage, I think we did well, but tackling got the best of us today.
"I overran a run play. Went for a strip on (David Johnson's 47-yard TD run). Looked like he was going down, I went for the strip, he was still up. Those are judgment calls. You work and you get better at 'em."
There might be a lot of work to do before Saturday.
Speaking of that 47-yard run, here is my replay analysis: Taylor Hart bursts into the backfield and starts to steer Johnson toward the sideline, before Hart trips over the turf and Johnson turns upfield. Next up, Walt Thurmond is sealing off the outside, tries to lunge back inside for the tackle, fails. DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso are in the area but end up on the ground, as was so often the case. Johnson squeezes through Watkins on one side and Malcolm Jenkins on the other, helped by Watkins' strip attempt. Somewhere in there Connor Barwin overshoots. Then Ed Reynolds is reaching at Johnson from behind and that doesn't go well at all. Finally, Biggers, the only remaining Eagle, gets swatted away and Johnson stomps the pylon.
DEVELOPING STORY LINES
* Rewatching, seemed to me Byron Maxwell suffered his injury on the second Arizona drive, tackling Kerwynn Williams after a catch, and that Eric Rowe might have gotten concussed on the next snap, when Michael Floyd stiff-armed Rowe in the face along the Arizona sideline.
* Initially I thought Riley Cooper just didn't do a good job as the lead-blocker on that failed fourth-and-a-foot play from the Arizona 8 near the end of the first half. Rewatching, safety Tony Jefferson slides off Brent Celek's block, into the hole, and Cooper ends up trying to clear Jefferson, Deone Bucannon and Jerraud Powers, which is a lot to ask. Ryan Mathews might have been better off going wide.
* Chip Kelly said Nelson Agholor got one target and no catches in his 57 snaps because he was covered by Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson. Agholor was the 20th player taken in last spring's draft. Putting a good corner on him makes it impossible for him to catch a pass? At all? Ever? Really?
* Kelly also said that with this do-or-die game looming Saturday against Washington, the Eagles need to find the team that beat New England and Buffalo. Probably would be helpful to find an opponent who allows three return touchdowns or takes 15 penalties, as well.
The Eagles last scored more than two offensive touchdowns in regulation on Oct. 11, against the Saints. They've played nine games since then. Got a third offensive TD in overtime in Dallas Nov. 8. That would be it.
That donning the Eagles' No. 50 jersey would cause Kiko Alonso to channel Casey Matthews and Mark Simoneau?
Why do I think Sunday night was another step forward for Sam Bradford, despite the two interceptions?
Because unlike people whose analysis begins and ends with totaling up picks and TDs, I actually watch.
There were no interceptions until the Eagles were down 30-10 in the fourth quarter and throwing out of desperation. Before that, Bradford - who finished with 361 passing yards against a good secondary - made a handful of excellent third-down throws, in tough spots.
* Third-and-9 on the Eagles' first series, Bradford found Jordan Matthews for the first down.
* Third-and-13, same series, Bradford hit Matthews for another first down as Bradford was slammed down on his bad left shoulder, causing him to leave the game for a snap.
* On the Eagles' 10-play drive just before halftime that ended with them unable to convert fourth-and-a-foot, Bradford threaded an excellent back shoulder pass to Brent Celek on third-and-3, gaining 21 yards, Deone Bucannon in coverage.
* In the third quarter, down 23-10, third-and-15 from the Eagles' 2, Bradford was blasted in the end zone by Markus Golden, who blew right through Darren Sproles. Bradford still found Josh Huff on the left sideline for 22 yards and a first down. This would have been a big deal if the Eagles had gotten back into the game on the 11-play drive, something that seemed on the verge of happening before Jason Peters let Golden through for a blindside sack-fumble, for which Bradford was not to blame.
On Twitter: @LesBowen