Philadelphia Eagles: If you don’t know Quez Watkins, you will soon

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Hey, did you know the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had a 1,000-yard wide receiver since Jeremy Maclin called the City of Brother Love – or, more realistically, the suburbs – home?

I know, that sounds improbable, right? I mean, the Eagles won the freakin’ Super Bowl during the post-Jeremy Maclin-era, and they’ve paid a small fortune to players like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor over that timeframe, but, my friends, it’s true.

Outside of Zach Ertz, who obviously doesn’t play wide receiver, the Eagles have been sans a single marquee pass catcher, (surely) much to the chagrin of quarterbacks like Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford, and now Jalen Hurts.

Could that change in 2021? Yes. I think there’s a pretty good chance we see DeVonta Smith burst past 1,000 yards and finally give Philly the homegrown hero the city had been lacking since DeSean Jackson’s original run. But hey, just because Smith has the best chance to be “it, baby” doesn’t mean he’s the only receiver on the roster who could turn heads next month.

If word from camp is of any indication, it would appear Quez Watkins might just be a fantastic 1b for the Philadelphia Eagles this fall.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to go BPA in the 2020 NFL Draft is (probably) about to pay off.

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Coming out of college, there wasn’t a particularly robust market for Quez Watkins.

Born Terrance Watkins in Athens, Alabama, Quez was rated a two-star recruit by 24/7 Sports, a two-star recruit from Rivals, and wasn’t ranked at all by ESPN.

Though he did receive interest from a few schools, including a chance to walk-on at Alabama, Watkins opted to accept an offer from Southern Miss, where he played from 2017-19.

*spoiler alert* Watkins probably doesn’t regret that decision.

After getting his feet wet as a freshman in 2017, Watkins turned in a pair of exemplary seasons as a member of the Golden Eagles, hauling in 136 passes for 2,069 yards and 15 touchdowns while playing within the confines of an offense that wasn’t exactly overflowing with NFL-bound talent.

This stat line, when coupled with wonderful athletic testing numbers – 4.35 40, anyone? – helped to vault Watkins into the draftable conversation even if the, shall we say, homestyle nature of Southern Mississippi’s offense may have limited his draftable ceiling.

Even after drafting Jalen Reagor and John Hightower early in the weekend, Howie Roseman clearly saw something in Watkins worthy of triple-dipping at a position of need. He made him the 200th player selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Fast forward a little over a year into the future, and that faith has been justified.

Now, as a rookie, Watkins was about as raw as they come. He wasn’t a particularly good route runner – he was mostly used as a YAC-specialist in college – only appeared in six games with zero starts, and was limited to seven catches on 13 targets for 106 yards and a single touchdown. Had Watkins come into camp the same player, he’d likely be a borderline player competing with John Hightower and JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a spot on the 53 man roster.

But instead, Watkins put in the work, rounded out his game, and now is not only a lock to make the roster but could be the team’s third starter in 11 personnel groupings alongside DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor.

Watkins has improved his overall game, as Darius Slay will tell you, he’s established a strong rapport with Jalen Hurts, and even has even caught the eye of Torrey Smith, who hasn’t played for the Birds since the 2017 season but stopped by for a visit earlier this month.

Simply put, you can’t find a person who has something bad to say about the work Watkins has put in this summer.

But hey, don’t believe me? Well, judge for yourself, as Watkins will be back in action Thursday night – now wearing the number 16 – when the Eagles make their preseason debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Linc. While we won’t know for sure how many snaps Watkins will receive until he actually takes the field, it’ll surely be interesting to see how the 6-foot, 185-pound receiver is able to hold up against live bullets in the NFL’s iteration of the “Battle of Pennsylvania.”

Next. To trade or not to trade for C.J. Henderson. dark

Will Quez Watkins finally break the Philadelphia Eagles’ 1,000-yard receiver drought? Probably not, but if he’s able to fill out a schematic trio with Devonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, it’ll go a long way to securing Nick Sirianni a respectable, professional wide receivers corps, which is more than many of his predecessors could boast for stretches of their tenures.