Philadelphia Eagles: Travis Fulgham vs. Quez Watkins is a good problem

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Travis Fulgham and Quez Watkins will officially have been teammates for a year on August 20th.

Initially drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 and 2020 NFL Drafts respectively, few expected Fulgham or Watkins to become legitimate contributors in their first season in the City of Brotherly Love, let alone be competing for a starting spot against each other in 2021.

And yet, fast forward (almost) a year into the future, and here we are. Fulgham and Watkins are not only locks to make the 53 man roster but are locked in a battle for the Philadelphia Eagles‘ WR3 spot behind DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor.

With Fulgham firmly established as the Eagles’ top possession outside target, and Watkins flying up the depth chart with his explosive, multi-positional play, the Eagles’ coaching staff has a tricky decision to make heading into the regular season as to which receiver will earn starting reps moving forward. But hey, it’s cool; there’s no real loser in this situation, as both players should play massive roles in Nick Sirianni‘s offense this fall.

The Philadelphia Eagles have five legitimately talented wide receivers in 2021.

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In 2020, the Philadelphia Eagles’ receiving corps was weird.

With Alshon Jeffrey sidelined with a flummoxing open-ended injury, the Eagles started out their Week 1 bout with Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson penciled in as their starting receivers, which Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert filling out the starting lineup in place of a third wide receiver.

Now granted, that doesn’t mean the Eagles sat solely in the 12 personnel all game long. No, in a game where no receiver earned more than 60 percent of the team’s snaps, Doug Pederson opted to give all five of his active wide receivers at least 27 offensive snaps, with Reagor finishing out the contest as the high-man in the game with 40.

Was said game an aberration? Honestly, we’ll never know. After opting to give Greg Ward the start over Goedert in Week 2, Reagor ended up on IR in Week 3, and Jackson was out for all but two games over the final 14 weeks of the season. Had these two remained healthy, and Alshon Jeffrey returned to the field before Week 10, maybe we could have seen what the receiving corps Howie Roseman put together was made of, but instead, we saw players like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, and yes, Quez Watkins turn in underwhelming snaps, with only Travis Fulgham rising to the occasion as a light in otherwise murky waters.

In 2021, the Eagles’ receiving corps is younger, leaner, and a whole heck of a lot more exciting, and a lot of that comes from the runway afforded to players like Watkins and Fulgham.

With Jackson and Jeffrey now members of the Los Angeles Rams and the… well, no one at the moment, Watkins and Fulgham have received significant run with the Eagles’ top offensive units in camp, with the former specifically becoming a favorite target of Jalen Hurts and the latter turning in positive performances in place of an injured Smith.

So who deserves to get the nod at WR3? Should the Eagles opt to run Fulgham as their starting X receiver, with Smith off the line and Reagor in the slot, or should they instead play Watkins at flanker, Smith on the line, and Reagor in the slot in three wide receiver situations? Is there a situation where Ward earns starts once more in the slot with Reagor on the outside and both Watkins and Fulgham coming off the bench?

Yes. Yes, to all three.

You see, during Nick Sirianni’s tenure in Indianapolis, the Colts didn’t simply rely on three primary wide receivers like the 2005 Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, Ty Hilton was on the field more often than not when healthy, but for the most part, the team would cycle in pass catchers depending on down, distance, and situation. Even if the Eagles’ receiving corps isn’t a one-for-one clone of their Indianapolonian brothers, they provide similar optionality and thus creativity for the team’s play designers.

Considering just how well the Eagles’ first and even second-team offenses moved under Sirianni in their preseason debut versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, I imagine the 2021 season will not be short on creativity.

Next. Find me 91 players better than Jason Kelce. dark

Ultimately, if I had to pick a winner in the great WR3 war of 2021, I’d have to give the nod to Quez Watkins. While both players have been great, Watkins just keeps making gif-able plays that turn heads the world over. But in a league where teams are routinely playing four or even five wide receivers with regularity, having four top-tier pass-catchers – five if you count Greg Ward – ready to go every week is a good one to have for the Philadelphia Eagles this fall.