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Kelly to RT in Eagles' latest O-line shakeup

reuben frank csnphilly

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:38 PM

Frank

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Kelly to RT in Eagles' latest O-line shakeup

November 14, 2012, 4:20 pm

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The Eagles have used four starting offensive lines so far this year. It looks like that number is going to increase again this weekend.

It appears likely rookie Dennis Kelly will become the Eagles’ fourth right offensive tackle in three games Sunday, when the slumping Eagles face the Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

Kelly has started the last three games at right guard in place of Danny Watkins, who’s been out with a high ankle sprain. But Watkins returned to practice Wednesday, setting into motion a chain reaction of moves the Eagles hope will strengthen a disastrous offensive line.

Todd Herremans was the starting right tackle until he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the Saints game two weeks ago. He was initially replaced by Demetress Bell, who had been benched for King Dunlap at left tackle after the Detroit loss.

Then, for the Dallas game Sunday, Dunlap got the start at right tackle, with Bell going back to left tackle.

But with Watkins now practicing and hoping to return to action this weekend, the Eagles had the luxury of moving Kelly back outside to right tackle. If Watkins is healthy -- still a big if -- Kelly would get the nod at right tackle, with Dunlap moving back to left tackle and Bell to the bench.

Kelly has never played offensive tackle in the NFL, but did start at left tackle for 3½ years at Purdue.

At 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, Kelly, at least physically, is more suited to tackle than guard.

“I feel better out there just because of my size and that’s what I have played throughout college, so I’m a fan of being out there,” Kelly said.

Watkins was listed as a full participant at practice and said after practice he still anticipates being able to play Sunday.

“It felt pretty good,” Watkins said. “There’s still tweaks, but that’s to be expected. ... It felt pretty good today. There was a few times where ... I would tweak it, but I’m gonna try a few more things tomorrow, so we’ll see.”

Kelly admittedly struggled at times at right guard. It didn’t help that on his left he had a center, Dallas Reynolds, who’s a first-year player, and on his right, he’s had a series of guys and little stability.

“It was a little difficult,” he said. “It was pretty hard throughout the preseason and the beginning of the year because I was looking at every position trying to make sure I knew everything, but now that I’m able to focus on one position at a time, it’s a little bit easier.”

He said the constant blitzes he had to deal with were unlike anything he’s experienced before on the football field.

The Eagles averaged 362 yards in the three games Kelly started at right guard, but allowed 12 sacks and scored just 53 points.

“A lot more blitzes come when you’re inside,” Kelly said. “When you’re at tackle, you pretty much know who you’re going to get the whole time -- you have the end. And so especially in the last couple weeks, I think they kind of knew to bring some blitzes my way, so there’s a lot of action coming toward me, so it was quite a bit to grab.

“Not having played guard in college at all ... it is a different type of game going up against a different type of player. A lot more physical. You’re definitely into more of a dogfight every play.”

The Eagles also signed veteran interior lineman Jake Scott this week, who can play center or guard. He replaces Julian Vandervelde, a one-time Eagles fifth-round pick who was here a few weeks after starting the season with the Buccaneers.

The presence of Scott makes it easier for the Eagles to move Kelly outside. There’s also a chance if Watkins is unable to play, the Eagles would just leave Kelly out at tackle, which he’s better suited to, and start Scott at right guard.

Either way, Kelly said his experience the last few weeks at guard will help him now that he’s back at tackle.

“That’s the way I look at it,” he said. “If you know one position, you should know what the other guy’s doing, so it does make it easier knowing if I’m out at tackle what the guard would have on this play.

“Definitely makes it easier knowing the way I approach it and what I can do.”

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com