Quez Watkins

Eagles rookie receivers offer options for dynamic return men

Eagles rookie receivers offer options for dynamic return men

As the 2020 NFL Draft unfolded the only person in the organization who might have been happier than Carson Wentz that the Eagles drafted three speedy wideouts is Dave Fipp. 

Because the Eagles didn’t just get three weapons for Wentz. 

They also got their special teams coordinator three players with the ability to be huge contributors in the return game. 

“Oh gosh, man,” Fipp said with a smile on a Zoom call Friday morning. “We’ve got all kinds of options there right now. I would just say Howie (Roseman) and those guys, they’ve always done a great job. But this year, they’ve given us a lot of options back there. I mean, everyone wants to be a returner. We’re meeting with those rookies right now and they’ve all done it and they’ve all been really good at it.”

Last season, the Eagles used five different punt returners and five different kick returners. 

Their leading punt returner from the 2019 season was Darren Sproles, who is now part of the front office. And their leading kick returner was Miles Sanders, who will have a huge role on offense this season. 

So the Eagles are going to need to figure out new guys to take over. Maybe the answer could be with returning players like Boston Scott, Corey Clement or even DeSean Jackson, at least at crucial moments. 

But maybe it’s one of these new draft picks:  

Jalen Reagor (Round 1-21) 

Without knowing how big of a role Reagor will have on offense, we do know he’d be a great candidate to be a return man in the NFL. While he returned some kickoffs in college, he returned more punts and had a tremendous season as a punt returner in 2019. 

His numbers went down as a receiver as a junior in 2019 but he had a punt return average of 20.8 yards per return and took two to the house, including this one that was awfully reminiscent of that famous DeSean return against the Giants. 

“Jalen’s obviously a really explosive player,” Fipp said. “When the ball’s in his hands, he’s electric. He made a lot happen. Obviously had a huge average in college. We’re really excited about him, definitely excited about him for us here.” 

Here are his return stats at TCU: 

Punt returns: 23 returns, 312 yards (17.8), 2 touchdowns 

Kick returns: 13 returns, 315 yards (24.2)

The problem with using Reagor as a returner is the possibility of overloading him, especially if he has a big role on offense. And given the fact that he’s learning both outside receiver positions, it seems pretty likely he’ll be playing a lot on offense as a rookie. 

John Hightower (Round 5-168)

Unlike Reagor, Hightower was definitely more of a kick returner than a punt returner during his college career. 

He had an average of 24.6 yards per return as a senior at Boise State and returned this one the length of the field against Portland State. 

Maybe Hightower isn’t the best option as a punt returner given his limited experience doing it at Boise but he could be a viable option as a kick returner. He has 4.43 speed and seems to understand how to set up his blockers. 

Here are his return stats at Boise State: 

Punt returns: 1 return for 2 yards 

Kick returns: 36 return for 840 yards (23.3), 1 touchdown

Thanks to rule changes, kickoff returns aren’t as big a part of today’s NFL as they used to be, but knowing one return could change a game is reason enough to find a good one.  

Quez Watkins (Round 6-200)

The Eagles’ sixth-round pick ran a 4.35 at the combine, so you’d understand why the Eagles might like to try him out as a return man in the NFL. He can fly. 

Here are his return stats at Southern Mississippi: 

Punt returns: 19 returns for 178 yards (9.4), 1 touchdown 

Kick returns: 18 returns for 365 yards (20.3)

While Fipp has been having conversations with these rookies about the possibility of being used as returners in 2020, he hasn’t yet been able to see them work at those positions in person. That will come during training camp, when they’ll rotate in and out. 

“But we definitely have a lot to work with,” Fipp said, “so we’re definitely excited about that.”

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Madden 21 ratings: Jalen Reagor, 2020 rookies receive first-ever overall ratings

Madden 21 ratings: Jalen Reagor, 2020 rookies receive first-ever overall ratings

EA Sports released ratings for the 2020 rookie class's offensive skill players this week, and Eagles fans should be pretty happy with where their guys landed, with only a few gripes.

First-round pick Jalen Reagor is a 73 overall, coming in as the fifth-ranked wideout. He's one point behind Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was selected one spot behind Reagor and who will likely be compared to Reagor for at least the length of their respective rookie contracts.

Second-round pick Jalen Hurts, the selection that had (and maybe still has?) Eagles fans scratching their heads, is a 68 overall. He's Madden's fifth-ranked quarterback in the 2020 class, just two points behind Chargers first round pick Justin Herbert and three points behind Packers first round pick Jordan Love.

Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow both lead the way with 76 overall ratings.

Diving a bit deeper, I think Reagor's 79 catch rating is low, as is his 62 strength rating, and Hurts' 65 awareness is a bit rough. But otherwise, things feel about right.

Here's a breakdown of individual skill ratings for Reagor, Hurts, wide receiver John Hightower, and wide receiver Quez Watkins:

Jalen Reagor: 73

Speed: 93
Acceleration: 92
Strength: 62
Agility: 94
Awareness: 67
Catch: 79
Break Tackle: 75
Jump: 94

Jalen Hurts: 68

Speed: 86
Acceleration: 89
Strength: 72
Agility: 88
Awareness: 65
Throw Power: 84
Break Tackle: 75
Jump: 86

John Hightower: 68

Speed: 92
Acceleration: 89
Strength: 49
Agility: 85
Awareness: 65
Catch: 81
Break Tackle: 69
Jump: 90

Quez Watkins: 65

Speed: 94
Acceleration: 90
Strength: 41
Agility: 86
Awareness: 61
Catch: 80
Break Tackle: 74
Jump: 87

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Quez Watkins getting ‘crucial’ workout time with Carson Wentz in Houston 

Quez Watkins getting ‘crucial’ workout time with Carson Wentz in Houston 

Quez Watkins always knew Carson Wentz was big. 

He didn’t know he was that big. 

Watkins has been in Houston this week working out with his new quarterback and a few other receivers, including first-round pick Jalen Reagor. It’s the first time the rookies have been able to catch passes from the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. 

“Truthfully, I didn’t know he was that big,” Watkins said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark on Wednesday. “I thought he was maybe 6-3, 6-2. But he was like 6-5 and I was like, man, he’s tall. I see how he can sling it now.”

Watkins, 22, got to Houston on last Sunday and is spending two weeks there. His original plan was to meet Jalen Hurts in Houston and work out with him, but he then got a call from Wentz, who was also down there. Watkins still plans on meeting up with Hurts. 

This week, Wentz has been throwing to Reagor, Watkins, Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. 

For Watkins, getting a chance to work out with Wentz is a big deal, especially in this unusual offseason without OTAs.  

It’s crucial,” Watkins said. “Especially being a sixth-round draft pick, it’s not every day that somebody that late in the draft can already get with the quarterback and build a relationship and build a trust. For me, that’s crucial and that will give me a step ahead.

Watkins said he’s really excited about the Eagles’ offense after working with Wentz for a few days. Wentz relayed information about new senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello’s offensive mindset and is helping Watkins learn the playbook. Watkins feels like he’ll be in his element with the Eagles. 

Of course, Watkins isn’t even guaranteed to make the team as a sixth-round pick, especially because the Eagles took two receivers — Reagor in the 1st, John Hightower in the 5th — before him. And then there’s DeSean Jackson, Ward, JJAW, Alshon Jeffery and Marquise Goodwin. 

But getting some extra reps with the starting quarterback in June can only help. 

“With [Wentz], he’s really just giving me signals and really coaching me up and helping me learn the playbook as we go along,” Watkins said. “And just getting reps, learning the different routes and stuff like that.”

The hope for Watkins is that once training camp rolls around in late July, he won’t have to start from scratch with the starting quarterback. Had he not been in Houston right now, his first work with Wentz wouldn’t have come until training camp. 

Watkins was taken with the 200th pick out of Southern Mississippi, but he thinks he would have been selected sooner in a draft that wasn’t so deep at his position. In his final two college seasons, Watkins had 136 catches for 2,067 yards and 15 touchdowns. And then he ran a 4.35 at the combine. He definitely has potential. 

Since the draft, Watkins has worked on putting on some muscle and keeping his speed. And now he’s getting a chance to work out with his new quarterback. 

“I just told him I’m going to do what I can to help the team win games,” Watkins said. “I’m just going to be reliable and always be there for him.” 

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