The Eagles offense will be looking for a retool this summer as the new coaching staff will be implementing their scheme. With that comes the natural next step of finding the right pieces of the offensive puzzle. While the idea that Jalen Reagor should be the covet of last year’s rookie class isn’t so far-fetched, you should still keep your eyes on one receiver from last years’ group that could make a huge jump – Quez Watkins.
Quez Watkins had an interesting rookie campaign last season. After running a 4.35 at the combine, second only to Henry Ruggs, it took some time for Eagles fans to see the speed translate into game speed. Injury setbacks limited his Summer preparations and ripped half of his first NFL season away. In fact, he didn’t make his first catch until week 14.
What didn’t help was that when he was active, Watkins was overlooked on several plays by former Eagles QB Carson Wentz. It was Jalen Hurts who put the world on notice about the team’s young speedster.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Watkins is the second coming of DeSean Jackson or Tyreek Hill, but he is a player that could excel in Nick Sirianni’s scheme.
Jackson’s name is actually one of note. He and Reagor both played the Z spot in 2020 and the veteran clocked in 179 snaps in comparison to Reagor’s 510 (injury obviously playing a role). The season started out with the two playing a very similar amount of snaps until injury set in, with Pederson intent on finding game-breaking speed. With Jackson now out of the door, we could assume that at a minimum, Watkins could see a bump in snaps, having already played in 119 as a rookie.
The Colts ran a scheme of three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back for about 69% of the time last season. If the Eagles do score big in the first round of this draft then maybe we can expect Ja’marr Chase, Devonta Smith, or Jaylen Waddle to be one of those receivers. Ideally, Chase is the receiver they take from this WR group.
Jalen Reagor showed that he has plenty of potential as a Z receiver, but several mental mistakes deflated that theory such as the time he caught the ball in an open field and ran directly to a Dallas defender. Travis Fulgham showed that he could be that big-catch receiver at the X as long as he’s given consistent reps. After those two it seems to be a free for all.
That’s where Watkins comes in. He can play the same spot as Reagor if needed but his route tree will need polishing if he wants to make an impact. Aaron Moorehead will be the coach responsible for doing just that as the only offensive coach not named Jeff Stoutland to be retained this offseason.
Quez Watkins has already shown that he can make big plays as seen in the game against Arizona where he scored a 32-yard touchdown off a short pass followed by a smooth spin move that Madden would never allow.
Watkins was only targeted for 13 times in 6 games last season. Several people have mentioned that Watkins and Wentz never really had the time to work together due to an upper-body injury that led to Quez starting the season on injured reserve. All in all, Quez finished with 7 receptions for 106 yards while averaging 15.1 yards per reception.
Those flashes of production only backed up what the Eagles already knew. Only six wide receivers in college football in 2019 averaged more yards per game than Watkins’ 104.1. His 18.17 YPC ranked eighth among WRs with 60 or more receptions.
Although he finished with the 21st most receiving yards, he had 1,145 in eleven games. 19 of the 20 receivers in front of him played in 1-4 more games. Four more games at his YPG average would have placed him at 1,561 yards for the season, which would’ve been third-most in the country.
If the new coaching staff can see in Watkins what others already have but failed to act on, then we should expect Head Coach Nick Sirianni to find ways to plug in Watkins from time to time. The new-look coaching staff is known to maximize the abilities of their players and the speed that Watkins brings with his unique athleticism shouldn’t be overlooked.
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