Eagles will have some tricky decisions to make at wide receiver

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles WR Quez Watkins (16) carries the ball in the first half during the game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Training Camp is on the horizon and the Philadelphia Eagles have plenty of positional battles to look forward to. But while many eyes will be fixed on Jalen Hurts, there’s something brewing under the surface at wide receiver between Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor.

Left in the cold?

The Eagles transformed their receiving corps this offseason by adding one man and one man only. His presence alone was enough to flip everything we know about the WR spot on its head. A.J Brown was acquired by Howie Roseman during the NFL Draft and immediately gave the Eagles a superstar on the outside to partner with their emerging stud in DeVonta Smith. As for the rest of the positional group? This is where things get interesting.

Prior to the move that shocked the world, the Eagles brought in former Colts WR, Zach Pascal. His physical presence over the middle was initially expected to open things up for Smitty and Brown. The 1A-1B combo are bound to lap up targets and Pascal has never exceeded 73 in a single season. As someone who can help in the run game and present a consistent red-zone threat, he’s a snug fit that will also elevate the new-look duo by commanding some attention over the middle and giving the young wideouts more 1-on-1 matchups.

Dropping him into the slot would likely push Quez Watkins outside, however. And if Watkins is fighting to be the first wideout off the bench, then he’s more than likely going to be squaring off with former first-round pick, Jalen Reagor, for that role.

Quez Watkins vs Jalen Reagor

Reagor’s production through his opening two NFL seasons has been nothing short of dismal. 695 yards and 3 touchdowns for a former first-round pick just isn’t good enough, especially for a player who will be forever intertwined with Justin Jefferson.

Watkins is a polar opposite to Reagor. A smaller, zippier wideout who was drafted much later but has come on leaps and bounds in such a short amount of time, Quez put up 647 yards last year alone. That number could’ve been so much higher had he had some consistent QB play.

The coaching staff and players have done nothing but speak glowingly of Jalen Reagor, who has had a myriad of personal struggles to push through as well as his battles on the field. The team had all the time and opportunity in the world to trade the TCU product this offseason, but they didn’t budge. Cutting him wouldn’t have made much sense due to cap-related reasons, but it’s not like the Eagles weren’t constantly in trade talks where a low-risk, high-reward player could’ve been used as a sweetener.

Where the two really differ is trajectory. Watkins showed real growth as a route-runner last year, sinking his hips at the top of his routes to slow down quicker, and showing some real aggression off the line so that he doesn’t get blanketed in press. As for Reagor, he seemed to stagnate fairly early, with no real notable growth anywhere. In fact, it would be easier to argue a case for regression.

Both players need a big training camp but for totally different reasons. For Watkins, he knows that he’s of great use to this team by bursting down the seam. He also knows he can hold his own outside and continue to grow with some strong mentorship only bolstering the coaching foundation that WR whisperer, Nick Sirianni, has laid.

Why Training Camp matters

But with a top-heavy position group and only so many snaps to go around, he has to prove his versatility so that he is the first name off the bench, or even better, the starting slot receiver over Zach Pascal. He offers a very different skillset to what Pascal does, so it’s likely that they rotate based on matchup. But even so, you’d like to think that Watkins can cement his spot and be the top dog in the slot.

For Reagor, this camp could dictate how much of the football he sees this year. He’s certainly not going to be displacing Smitty or Brown anytime soon, but it is worth noting that the Eagles did trial moving him inside around this time one year ago. That could well cause a bit of a log-jam in the middle, unless the team feels confident that Watkins is ready to play solely outside.

Eagles need to see what they have in both players

What the Eagles really need to establish this Summer is how they view both Watkins and Reagor. There’s a large element of trust that will have to be given to Reagor if he is going to retain his current status, but if he does, there would be a natural knock-on effect as it would limit Watkins to the slot, which could be absolutely perfect….or place a glass ceiling over his head.

The WR picture is far more fluid than many of us realize and even while typing it all out, that we’re just probably going to see a very ‘vibey’ situation where Reagor and Watkins just sort of filter in as and when needed. My only worry there is one player seems destined for a breakout if given the opportunity, the other is fighting at this point, for his NFL future.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire