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Patrick Watkins: A chance to earn some respect

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Pat Watkins gets no respect.

So much so, I can't tell if there's a picture of Keith Davis on his Wikipedia page. I mean, it looks like Pat. He has his number. He looks tall like him. But is it really him? I think it's him.

Wow.

Watkins is a third-year player with much potential, yet unsettling results. He's showed flashes of brillance but has yet to turn the corner and become the player we all dreamed he'd become. Maybe it was because he was thrust into the starting lineup too early. Maybe it was because, at the time, we were all freaked out by the declining play of Roy Williams and looked at him as some type of savior. Whatever the case, due to Williams' injury, he will get the chance he yearns for and the opportunity to rise to the expectations we all had for him. He'll be our starting strong safety Sunday against the Packers.

Williams' broken forearm means two things: his bid to prove to the 'Boys that he deserves to be here past this year is in serious jeopardy and the naysayers who say we're better without him will either eat crow or be proven correct. In steps Watkins. As if starting for America's Team isn't enough. Now he's a main piece in the Roy Saga. He plays well and you can make an argument that we don't need Roy and Roy goes. He doesn't, well, maybe we still get rid of Roy, but maybe we keep Watkins because of his special team prowess, his familiarity with the system and his relative cheap contract compared with Roy's. Either way, Watkins has a role in the Roy Saga. And it's an integral one.

I've always been interested in Watkins because of where he came from. He went to Lincoln High School in Tallahassee and then went to Florida State, which is in the same city of my alma mater. It also means he's a local and, believe me, I heard a lot of terribly bad things about locals when I went to school there and I'm sure the feeling was mutual among locals who dealt with out-of-state students who looked down on them. It was a success story. Someone who wasn't outsourced to the football machine that is FSU but who was a homegrown kid that made good. I dug that.

Not to mention, we were having serious safety problems at the time he was drafted. So I had high hopes for him. It was kind of like when you're having girl troubles and haven't got lucky for a while. Suddenly you turn on the TV and every woman is darn near naked and dancing seductively. Go to the movies and it's the same thing. Go to the bar and it's the same thing. Next thing you know the first woman that speaks to you is the one, your pressing for the number and you seem desperate, which is never a good thing. I was desperate in 2006 for improved safety play. I projected my desire for stability on this poor kid. He was this 6'5 guy with 4.4 speed. He can't miss, I thought. A freak of nature. Big mistake.

The results were mixed. In 2006, he became the first safety to start an opener since Michael Downs. He finished the game against the Jaguars with seven tackles. He returned a fumble 53 yards to set up a touchdown against the Titans and finished that game with seven tackles. And who can forget his 68-yard romp versus the Vikings last year. But he gave up two big touchdowns against the Eagles in 2006. Who can forget this. And not only did he give up big plays, he looked lost at times. He tore his left bicep. Parcells chastised him for block tackling. He lost his starting gig and then was deactivated for a few games. I mean, those are some extreme highs and some extreme lows.

So what does this mean for the team? Before the Williams injury, Watkins had a role in the nickel and dime packages. That role will be expanded now that Watkins is a starter. He's better in coverage than Roy but he's not as physical. He has range -- which means he can cover a lot of ground because of his height.

Brandon W did a good job of chronicling Watkins but I thought it was time to return to his plight. Fellas, we need this guy. He's got to hold down the fort while Williams is out and he'll probably be the guy to replace Williams if and when he leaves.

Will he step up? Will he be the tackling machine that Roy was? Is he physical enough to play this position? I don't know gentlemen. I do know this. The coaching staff seems confident in him and if he ever gets the ball in his hands, he's gone. He's that fast. He was also part of the coverage that blanketed the Eagles in the second half and held them to seven points. He can do the job but I'm still unsure if he'll do it. He'll have to earn my respect.

He'll have ample chances to do that I suspect.