Outside of the Philadelphia Eagles first round picks from the past two years, DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, the team has a lot of question marks filling out the rest of the wide receiver depth chart. Even Reagor is an unknown entering this season after a very subpar rookie campaign.
There are few things set in stone with this young group of receivers. For all intents and purposes, we know Smith is a stud and someone who will contribute from day one, despite not seeing him on an NFL field yet. Greg Ward is an unspectacular slot receiver, but he’s been a reliable guy over the past year and a half. As for Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins, it’s hard to predict just how profound their impacts will be in this upcoming year.
Fulgham certainly displayed some real potential last season, but after sliding down the depth chart in the second half of the season, fans are left wondering what kind of receiver he truly is. Hightower did some nice things as a deep threat last season, averaging 16.7 yards per reception as a rookie, but that’s the only role we saw the Boise State product in last season.
Then we have Quez Watkins, who has the least amount of tape from the wideouts mentioned so far. Out of Fulgham, Hightower, and Watkins, Quez has arguably the most intriguing skill set of the bunch. His 4.36 speed would indicate he’s a potent deep threat, but his quickness suggests that with some fine tuning in the route running department, he could be a lethal weapon out of the slot or on quick to intermediate routes.
Watkins didn’t see a target until Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. He dealt with injuries throughout the first half of the year, starting the season off on injured reserve. In total, Watkins played in 119 offensive snaps in six games last year, recording seven receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
With such a small sample size, it may be a bit over zealous to say Watkins could be in for a breakout campaign in 2021, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. His playmaking ability was apparent whenever he got the ball in his hands, with his most notable highlight coming in Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals.
On a third down and a mile, Watkins’ number got called on a quick wide receiver screen. He caught it, made a shifty spin to the outside, and out ran the defense to the end zone.
Watkins didn’t have many opportunities to showcase his route running ability. While it certainly needs some development, he has the physical tools to get open against NFL corners, whether that’s on the outside or in the slot.
This play against Washington in Week 17 is a prime example of the ability Watkins has. On the goal line, without much room to work with, Watkins shakes his corner twice and gets wide open. If it weren’t for an arrant throw by Jalen Hurts, this is a touchdown.
There were times last season where Watkins had trouble beating his cover man off the line of scrimmage, though. He needs to be better with his hands when getting free from press corners, he relied a bit too heavily on his quickness last season.
Nick Sirianni‘s track record in coaching wide receivers has been well documented throughout the offseason, so I’m sure he’ll be working with Watkins on this kind of stuff all throughout OTAs and training camp.
Watching some of his other snaps, it’s clear that his potential to be a great deep ball threat or someone who can consistently beat corners on deep in-breaking or out-breaking routes is there. He does a nice job of planting his foot in the ground and turning his shoulders in anticipation of the ball. There are very little wasted steps in his route running.
It’ll be interesting to see how this wide receiver depth chart unfolds during training camp and the preseason. Watkins, Hightower, and Fulgham will all have their chances to solidify their spots. Watkins and Hightower have very similar skill sets, whereas Fulgham is a more big bodied receiver who fits the profile of your prototypical X receiver. But as we know, Sirianni expects his receivers to play all over the formation.
Wherever Watkins ends up in any given offensive set, he has the ability to make an impact. On quick screens or jet sweeps, to deep breaking routes or short quick-hitting routes, Watkins has all the tools to be successful in this type of west coast passing attack.
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