Quez Watkins had a chance to erase a disappointing season in Super Bowl LVII with one big catch.
He couldn’t do it.
Watkins dropped a deep ball from Jalen Hurts in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 38-35 loss to the Chiefs. Dallas Goedert bailed the Eagles out on third down after the drop but the missed opportunity was big. It would have set the Eagles up inside the 10 yard line on a drive where they eventually settled for a field goal to go up 27-21.
“It was really just all my details in the play,” Watkins said as he cleaned out his locker at the NovaCare Complex this week. “I should have used late hands and I didn’t and it cost me to have a drop with the DB on my back.”
It’s the kind of play that if the Eagles end up winning that game, Watkins can simply put behind him. But in a loss? It’s going to stick with him for a long time.
There’s only one way to get over a drop like that.
“Going back to work,” Watkins said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to make it better. Going back to work. Honestly, getting back there, trying my hardest to get back there and honestly just staying together. Staying as a team and just keep fighting.”
Watkins, 24, had a disappointing third season in the NFL. After the addition of A.J. Brown, Watkins went from being the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver to No. 3, but even in his new role, the 2022 season was disappointing. He finished the year with 33 catches on 51 targets for 354 yards (10.7) and 3 touchdowns.
It was a down year after such a promising campaign in 2021, when he caught 43 for 647 yards and Nick Sirianni said after the season that he was a legitimate No. 2 receiver in the NFL.
Now there are questions about whether or not he’s good enough to be the Eagles’ third option.
Watkins had three drops in the regular season and the QB passer rating on throws targeting him was 80.0. That’s lower than the rating throwing the ball to Dallas Goedert, A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Jack Stoll, Zach Pascal and Grant Calcaterra.
“I didn’t play my brand of football all year,” Watkins said. “I never played this bad.”
When asked why he didn’t play his brand of football, Watkins pointed to the mental side of the game and cryptically mentioned he was playing through “all sorts of things” on and off the field.
Eventually, Watkins said he suffered a Grade 2 shoulder sprain in the Tennessee game and played with it the last 6-8 weeks of the season. He said that injury “deteriorated” his confidence. He was favoring the shoulder instead of just playing through it.
Because of the addition of Brown, Watkins this season played more in the slot than he had his first two years in the NFL but not much more than he did in 2021. Per PFF, here’s a look at his slot percentages during his time in the NFL:
Some might wonder if Watkins is better suited, because of his speed, to playing outside in the NFL. But he doesn’t think so. Watkins thinks he can play either spot and he’s still confident about his ability to play in this league.
“I just feel like I have a future in this game period,” Watkins said. “Whether it’s inside or outside.”
After all, he’ll still be just 25 when next season starts. But it will be Year 4 for the 2020 sixth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi.
What will it take for Watkins to get back to making plays in this offense?
“Mentality,” he said. “As Kobe said, you just got to go to work. You’ve just got to put your head down and go in that dark place and just go to work. That’s all it is, regardless of the he say, she say, man, just go to work. That’s all on you.”
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