The Eagles placed Quez Watkins on the COVID/Reserve list yesterday, kickstarting their return from the bye in chaotic fashion. This is bad news for a team whose should-be WR2 is currently registering fewer receiving yards than the teams’ rookie running back, Kenny Gainwell. So who should start in place of Quez Watkins?
It’s important to note that Watkins is running routes out of the slot 66% of the time (Per player profiler) and has a 13% target share. It’s not like the team are going to be doomed without their lone burner, but if Smith and Goedert are the two most viable targets, this only further entrenches their status at the top of the pecking order. So naturally, we’re already looking for a slot guy.
The immediate reaction is to turn to Greg Ward Jr. Everyone’s favorite underdog has been somewhat of an afterthought season, despite his explosive 2020 campaign. He’s been targeted four times all year and although the two catches he made were both touchdowns, it’s disappointing to see his usage dip so much after racking up 92 yards on 9 receptions and a hat-trick of touchdowns between weeks 13-16 of the 2020 season.
Ward is probably going to be the most viable option here, but he’s not the only one the team has.
Doug Pederson flirted with the idea of a big-slot receiver on numerous occasions and Nick Sirianni may decide to go down that route this weekend. JJAW has only caught two passes this season but has been an integral blocking piece in what has become a rush-heavy offense when on the field. He’s only played in 11% of offensives snaps and his receiving potential isn’t really big enough to demand an increased role.
I think Hightower would be the best low-risk, high-reward scenario here. He’s currently sitting on the practice squad and unlike Ward, will be contracted with the team for a couple more years since he was drafted by the team. His rookie year showcased some eyebrow-raising route-running and some disappointing drops. The upside is certainly there and he’s the receiver closest to Watkins in terms of skillset. Even if it’s only for a week, the Eagles have nothing to lose in turning him loose.
The Miami Dolphins parted ways with Travis Fulgham on Monday and it didn’t take long for the cogs to start turning. If he re-signs in Philly, he’d have to start outside, pushing Reagor into more favorable slot matchups, but would the Eagles really be willing to sign a player who they cut from their roster in the first place?
It’s not like Fulgham had a huge battle to make the roster. He was the teams’ leading wideout in 2020 and went on an iconic four-game run where he racked up 435 yards and 4 touchdowns during that iconic four-game run after his debut. Then came the return of Alshon Jeffery and a receiver who takes some targets to going was quickly without his vital life fuel.
Does Fulgham make sense here? Kinda. If Nick Sirianni truly is a WR whisperer then there’s very little to lose…but there could also be very little to gain given that he was unable to ignite Sirianni’s excitement in a full offseason of training.
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire