EAGLES NOTEBOOK: Danny Watkins (?), DeVonta Smith, Fun with Hargrave, Graham

Plus, Jordan Mailata picks up an award, and more
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PHILADELPHIA – Jason Kelce admitted to being just a bit skeptical when he was told the Eagles were drafting an Australian rugby player back in 2018.

He understood the decision, though.

“Whenever you have a guy that big who can move that well, it’s worth taking a flyer either in a late-round or a free agent because, you know, if he can pick up the mental aspects and he can pick up the little technical things, all the traits are there,” said Kelce on Thursday. “It’s hard to find that type of athleticism, speed, and strength outside of the first round, really. I think it was a great decision by the Eagles to go for it.”

Indeed, it was. The Eagles have found their left tackle of the present and probably future, too, after signing him to a four-year contract extension last weekend.

Kelce, though, was reminded of another flyer the Eagles took, though this one came in the first round. It was 2011 when the Eagles selected offensive lineman Danny Watkins 23rd overall. Kelce, of course, came later, much later, arriving in the sixth round, 168 picks after Watkins.

“Whenever you have a guy coming in who’s never played football before, that’s a big leap of faith, I guess,” said the Eagles veteran center. “Doesn’t know anything about the game, doesn’t know anything about the vocabulary. I think in some elements you remember a little of Danny Watkins, not a good comparison, but Danny had only played football for two years, and I still remember generic calls and things that any football player that had played before would know and just how raw he was in that regard.

“And Jordan was even more so because he had never played. It’s really remarkable how far he’s come so quickly.”

Mailata received the NFL Way to Play Award on Thursday.

The award was instituted in 2017, with an aim toward providing elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.

Mailata fits the criteria, and he certainly fits the award after the block that buried Falcons safety Richie Grant to spring Jalen Reagor for a fourth-quarter touchdown during last Sunday’s 32-6 win in Atlanta.

Each recipient of the Way to Play Award will receive a $2,500 equipment grant through USA Football to be awarded to the local youth or high school football program of the player's choice.

The ward is chosen by a panel that included Merrill Hoge, Ronnie Lott, Willie McGinest, Orlando Pace, and Michael Robinson.

HAVING SOME FUN

DT Javon Hargrave was in the press tent answering questions when DE Brandon Graham took a seat a few rows behind reporters, seen only by yours truly who was in the front row on the end. When it was apparent Hargrave was wrapping up his presser, I asked him: “What do you think of Brandon Graham’s play, he’s getting pretty old now.”

Graham broke out laughing as did Hargrave. Graham said something like, “I’ve been sitting back here trying to think of a question, and you got me. You got me.”

Here's the video:

SHELL SHEDDING

There’s been a lot of talk about DeVonta Smith coming out of his shell after he was seen dancing in the locker room following Sunday’s win.

“That’s just being around the team,” said the rookie WR. “They got me comfortable. They got me out of my shell. Just being around those guys got me comfortable and they see who I am, just when I get comfortable around people.

“The first day I stepped into the building, everybody treated me like I was family,” said the quiet and reserved rookie WR. “Then just going out there and practicing and being around the guys, it’s the whole team. I’m sure I’m not the only person they got out of their shell.”

Smith is a homebody by nature.

He lives by himself and, he said, he never goes out. He said he hasn’t been out to dinner, even for a cheesesteak.

After returning from Atlanta, he went back to his place and played 2K.

“Honestly, I don’t leave my house,” said Smith. “I come back here and just go back home. So I’ve been nowhere.

“That’s just how I am. I don’t like being around a lot of people. I don’t like going out. I just kind of tip myself, sit inside, watch film, play the game, sleep. That’s about all I do.”

Smith said he did get the football that he scored his first NFL touchdown with on his first NFL reception. In the postgame interview, he said he wasn’t sure where it was, but that was certain it would find its way to him.

It has.

“It found me,” he said. “They just had it in my locker.”

3 AND DONE

Second-year WR Quez Watkins caught the first three passes of the 2021 season, all in a row on the Eagles’ first possession in Atlanta. The first two completions went for 10 yards then 11. His third one picked up two yards.

“It helped me get going,” said Watkins on Thursday. “I feel like I kind of helped the offense start off fast, get the first two first downs out of the way and we started rolling.”

He wasn’t targeted again.

Watkins was OK with that.

“We all are unselfish,” he said. “We know at the end of the day, we gotta get each other open, we gotta help each other out. At the end of the day, there’s only one ball on the field, and the ultimate goal is to win, regardless.”

INJURIES

Everybody participated in some form or another, with the limited players being: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (ankle), G Brandon Brooks (knee, resting player), S Marcus Epps (concussion), TE Zach Ertz (hamstring, resting player), CB Avonte Maddox (groin), and S Rodney McLeod (knee).

For the second straight practice, OL Landon Dickerson (knee) and LB Davion Taylor (calf) were full participants.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We gotta come out with more intensity because them boys run it. You gotta make sure you keep up or set the tempo. That’s going to be our part, setting the tempo to dictate what’s going to happen, and not let them. That’s what they do with teams, dictate the tempo.” – Eagles DE Brandon Graham on 49ers’ vaunted running attack.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.