DANNY WATKINS knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier.
Watkins, the Eagles' 2011 first-round pick, began training camp yesterday right where he left off in the spring - on the second-team offensive line.
The Eagles drafted tackle Lane Johnson fourth overall in April, and when Johnson started showing the promise the Eagles expected, they moved incumbent right tackle Todd Herremans inside to Watkins' right-guard spot.
A new coaching staff offers a clean slate, and Watkins is clearly much more comfortable with Jeff Stoutland as his offensive-line coach than he was with Howard Mudd, but the chance to begin anew hasn't changed Watkins' situation. He started just six games last season, partly because of an ankle problem and partly because he wasn't playing well. The ex-firefighter who started playing football at 22 just didn't seem to have the instincts or the savvy to play with confidence.
"I'm not really looking at it as a Year 3 thing, I'm looking at it as this is starting from scratch," said Watkins, who turns 29 in November, thanks to the late start he got in football, growing up in British Columbia.
"Have you met him?" Watkins said of Stoutland. "He's more of a people person, I guess you could say. I think that goes a long way, when you're really passionate about who you wanna play for and who's coaching you. I think we have a good relationship.
"During minicamp, I spent a lot of time one-on-one with him, I'd come off the field and go right up to his office. He was very receptive of spending extra time with me, and being very patient and explaining things through. That's what you look for in a coach."
Watkins said "it's not really for me to say" what he needs to do to become a starter again. "I want to be at the heels of those guys, so to speak," he said.
Watkins said he is learning a lot from Herremans, the longest-tenured Eagle, who arrived in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.
Watkins wouldn't talk about his experiences under Mudd.
Is he fighting for a roster spot now?
"I think everyone is," he said. "Coach Kelly's been pretty adamant about saying nothing's carved in stone. I think everyone takes that home with them."
How does he feel about the drafting of Johnson, which pretty much sealed Watkins off from a starting role, unless someone gets hurt?
"It's going to help the team. On the one hand, that's great - we're going to be that much better up front," Watkins said. "It sets me back. But that's not anyone's fault but mine. I just need to play better."
Michael Vick got the first set of downs with the first-team offense yesterday, but as was the case in the spring, he pretty much split time with the first team with Nick Foles, who seemed a little sharper. Rookie Matt Barkley, practicing mostly with deep reserves, also seemed solid.
Chip Kelly said the quarterbacks are reacting "the way I hoped they would."
"They understand it's a competition, and the best guy is going to win it," Kelly said. "All through their careers, they've had to compete. I think there's a little bit more satisfaction when you actually go out and win something, than when something is handed to you."
Kelly has said previously he wants to see practices with pads (which start tomorrow, in front of as many as 65,000 people who have ordered free tickets, a sellout for this event, the Eagles said) and preseason games before reaching any conclusions. He reiterated that yesterday.
"We're not going to make any decisions that are going to be based on practice at the NovaCare," Kelly said. "We need to get into Lincoln and have people tee off on them and go after them . . . we're going to have to see those guys in the heat of battle."