Eagles Insider

Why this under-the-radar Eagles WR might be really good

Eagles Insider

There’s not much to go on. 

A snap here, a catch there.

Quez Watkins played only 119 snaps last year, eighth most among Eagles wide receivers. He played only 20 snaps the first three months of the season and was never targeted by Carson Wentz in brief cameos against the Steelers and Ravens.

Really, we didn’t see Watkins at all until the Saints game in Week 13, and by then the offensive line was in shambles, the running game was forgotten, rookie Jalen Hurts was getting his first career reps at quarterback and the Eagles were steaming toward an 11-loss season.

Watkins probably wouldn’t even have gotten that opportunity if not for DeSean Jackson’s season-ending injury, J.J. Arcega Whiteside’s ineffectiveness compounded by an injury and John Hightower’s struggles.

But he did. And in the final weeks of a miserable season, he showed up.

The numbers are modest. Watkins caught seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown over the final four games of the season. But considering his limited number of snaps and targets and the mess the team was in when he finally got to play, it was impressive.

Think about this: Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor played 1,853 snaps and were targeted 200 times and combined for eight catches of at least 30 yards.

Watkins played 119 snaps and was targeted 13 times and had two.

He was the only player in the NFL last year targeted 13 or fewer times with multiple 30-yard catches.

In the three games Hurts started and finished, he targeted Watkins eight times, and the rookie sixth-round pick from Southern Mississippi caught six of them, averaging nearly 17 yards a catch.

 

The fact that he produced given his few opportunities was a real eye-opener, especially considering all the unknowns in the Eagles’ receiving corps heading into 2021.

Hurts connected with Watkins on a 43-yard gain in the Cowboys game and a 32-yard touchdown against the Cards, the third-longest TD by an Eagles WR last year (behind Jackson’s 81-yarder against the Cowboys and Fulgham’s 42-yarder against the 49ers). It was the longest TD catch by an Eagles rookie since Mack Hollins’ 64-yarder from Wentz against Washington in 2017.

Let's hope this story has a better ending than that one.

In his few reps and on his handful of catches, Watkins looked sure-handed, confident and fast.  

Project Watkins’ performance in three full games with Hurts over a full season and we’re looking at 34 for 567 yards and five TDs.

That might be overly optimistic, but considering that we don't know how much better Reagor will get, we don't know what to expect from Fulgham and Ward is exclusively a slot, nothing would be surprising. 

There'll be plenty of opportunities for Watkins to earn playing time this year in a wide receiver room filled with questions. 

Watkins’ 106 yards last year was actually the most by an Eagles rookie drafted in the sixth round or later in 49 years, since seventh-round pick Harold Carmichael in 1971.

Watkins became the first NFL rookie to catch seven or fewer passes in a season but still have two 30-yard receptions since D’Onta Foreman of the Texans in 2017.

Like we said, it’s not a lot to go on. 

A few snaps, a couple big plays. And lots of projecting.

But I can’t help feeling there’s something there. And that what we’ve seen so far is only the beginning for the 23-year-old Watkins. 

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