During the off-season, we’ll take a closer look at the Philadelphia Eagles players currently on the roster, but we may not know much about them yet. Today we look at Quez Watkins with a wide receiver.
Previously published player reviews
Zech McPhearson | Jack Anderson | AJ Brown | Jason Huntley | Andre Dillard
Before we begin, I’ve clipped the video of all of Watkins’ 69 goals in 2021. It takes just over 20 minutes. I’ll wait while you check that out. To note, you may need to click “Watch on YouTube” below to see the video. Apologies in advance for some times when the screen freezes. NFL GamePass isn’t exactly a great product.
Done? Excellent! Before we get to our comments on Watkins’ game, here’s a snapshot of his career production:
Aaaaand here’s a look at his 2021 gamelog:
† production: Watkins quietly had 647 regular-season receiving yards in 2021. He more than doubled the production of Jalen Reagor, who had 299. Watkins played 771 offensive snaps, while Reagor played 750. As you can see from the game log above, Watkins has never had more than five receptions in one game, although he also only had one game with less than two receptions, which was the game against the Saints where the Eagles played it 50 times and Jalen Hurts had only 13 completions.
† Major game threat: Watkins had 12 receptions from 20+ yards. Those receptions went for 91, 41, 53, 24, 23, 27, 22, 28, 39, 22, 36 and 35 yards. He also had a couple of 20+ yard receptions that were outweighed by penalties against the Cowboys Week 3.
His most memorable big game was the 91-yarder against the 49ers:
That was actually the longest pass play in the NFL in 2021. Watkins ran a 4.35 40 at the 2020 NFL Combine, and as you can see from that long pass play, he has the ability to make it to the top of the defense.
But in addition to being behind the defense, Watkins also has the ability to turn short passes into big plays. We got a glimpse of it in his rookie season against the Cardinals:
And then again during the 2021 preseason:
And then again sometimes during the 2021 season, most notably against the Cowboys:
As you saw in the goal video above, there were times when Watkins lost distance on some fast screens because he was trying to make something happen, but I guess you can live with that if he has this kind of ability to play in the open field .
† Disputed Catches: You wouldn’t be unlike this 193 pound receiver who can fly to take a lot of disputed catches, but that’s a positive part of Watkins’ game as he made more than his fair share of disputed catches during the 2021 season. I thought that the most impressive was in the back of the end zone in the Eagles’ regular season game against the Buccaneers. It was clearly a defensive pass interference against Jamel Dean (who was not called), but Watkins was still able to bring in the pass even as the interference landed him out of bounds.
Disputed catches were also part of Watkins’ South Mississippi game, as you can see in these college highlights:
In an attack with Dallas Goedert and AJ Brown I don’t think Watkins will be the first choice if the Eagles want to run fade routes in the red zone, but on deep balls in the field that aren’t thrown accurately, Watkins can play on the football, as his goal video shows.
† hands: I have Watkins for two drops in the 2021 season. One was on a fast screen. The other was a dropped TD against the Broncos in which he ran a good route, got behind the defense and then just didn’t finish.
But overall, Watkins showed good hands throughout the season as well as in training camp, grabbing the ball cleanly from his body and rarely ‘doubling’ the football.
† Route is running: Watkins got a divorce and Hurts generally trusted that he was where he needed to be. In the goals video above, there was one mistake in the Tampa playoff game that pointed out to Troy Aikman where Watkins was accelerating and could have caused an interception. But overall, Watkins’ route should be seen as encouraging for a C-USA high school player entering his third year in the NFL.
† Sideline Awareness: Watkins made several toe-drag/toe-tap catches near the sidelines. He seems to know where he stands on the field.
† Breaking suits: Pro-Football-Reference.com had Watkins out for 5 broken tackles in 2021. I haven’t counted them myself, but that sounds about right. He’s unlikely to ever be a tackle-breaker like AJ Brown, for example, but it’s worth noting that the Watkins can be a spirited runner, who doesn’t give up very often and will fight for extra yards. He also has 32 7/8″ arms (74th percentile among receivers), and he uses them to catch potential tacklers with stiff arms, as you’ll see in his targeting video.
† Recurring kick: Watkins opened the season as the team’s No. 1 kick returner. He had 8 returns for 138 yards (17.3 YPR). He lost that job along the way, as he had zero kick returns from week 10 through the rest of the season.
Watkins’ outlook for 2022
The Eagles trio, made up of AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, are set to dominate targets in the Eagles’ attack in 2022. Watkins will definitely play a part, though, and I’d look to Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen to pick a single plays per game specific to Watkins.
If the ball doesn’t go in Watkins’s direction, the opposing defenses will have to respect his high speed, which could help open the short and medium areas of the field for Brown, Smith and Goedert to operate. In a way, Watkins is a perfect addition to that trio, in that (a) he’ll free up space for them, (b) he doesn’t need a heavy target, and (c) he’s proven he can. make big strides when the ball comes his way.
Watkins averaged 3.4 goals per game in 2021. Even if that total drops a little bit in 2022 as he moves from WR2 to WR3, I believe he’s getting a little sleepy as a playmaker who can make a real impact in some games this season.
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