In his typical nonchalant fashion on Wednesday afternoon, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was asked about his teammate Quez Watkins’ speed and may have understated it just a bit.
“Quez can roll,” Hurts said.
Yes, he can.
And in Sunday’s game in Arizona, we finally got to see Watkins put his 4.35 speed to the test. The sixth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi took a short pass from Hurts, spun his body and accelerated 32 yards into the end zone on a 3rd-and-20.
It was a heckuva play.
On the designed screen, Watkins was supposed to bust it inside, but when that wasn’t there, he spun his body and took it up the left sideline for his first career touchdown.
“Honestly, when I caught the ball, I didn’t see nothing but red,” Watkins said. “So I immediately stuck my foot in the ground and tried to get out, tried to get positive yards. When I seen I had open grass, I used my speed and I took it.”
We knew Watkins was fast after his combine 40 time but the fact that he was actually going backwards and was still able to accelerate like that was extremely impressive.
In fact, on that play, Watkins reached a top speed of 20.35 mph, which was the 8th-fastest recorded ball carrier time in the NFL in Week 15, according to Next Gen Stats.
That play looked awfully familiar to Austin Peay State head coach Scotty Walden, who was Watkins’ receivers coach and OC at Southern Mississippi. He saw a bunch of those during his time coaching Watkins.
“Pumped for Quez scoring his first of many touchdowns in the NFL,” Walden said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday. “Seeing him use his speed to separate from defenders brought back a lot of memories of him scoring touchdowns at USM.”
What do the Eagles actually have in Watkins? Who knows.
Right now he’s in a group of a few talented young wide receivers. After barely playing earlier in the season he has finally gotten his chance the last two weeks. Since Hurts was named the starting quarterback, Watkins has played 50 snaps over the last two weeks and has four catches for 43 yards.
It makes sense that Watkins was basically promoted along with Hurts. The two became very familiar with each other working on the scout team and even trained together before the combine down in Atlanta.
“When we got drafted together, it was really just we started connecting more,” Watkins said. “During the season with [the scout team] reps, the connection just started growing.”
At the tail end of his touchdown play on Sunday, Watkins chucked up a peace sign with his right hand to no one in particular as he crossed into the end zone.
“If you could really see my face through the helmet, I was smiling ear to ear,” he said. “I was really excited.”
Earlier this season, the Eagles played fifth-round pick John Hightower a ton but in recent weeks he has taken the bench. In fact, Watkins has been playing over Hightower and last year’s second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
During the first few months of the season, Watkins’ goal was just to stay ready and be ready when his opportunity came.
Now it’s all about proving he was worth the wait. He took a big step toward that against the Cardinals.
“I want to show them that I belong in this league,” he said.
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