If you’ve been keeping up with all the reports out of Eagles training camp, you’ll know second-year wideout Quez Watkins is among the most talked about players on the team at the moment.
Seemingly every practice, we get a new tidbit about how great Watkins has been. Whether it’s his improved route running, or his new found ability to high point the ball over defenders, Watkins is stealing all the headlines this summer.
But I have to be honest, this type of hype scares me.
Every year, there’s a Quez Watkins. Reports out of camp will praise said player, state how improved he’s looked in practice, only for it to be forgotten once the regular season begins.
There are numerous examples. Just last season, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was the one with the hype train. Here’s a snippet from NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro’s observations of camp last season:
The J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Hype Train officially left the station on Wednesday morning. If you don’t want to buy into the hype, I can’t blame you. But JJAW had a tremendous day on Wednesday, hauling in three impressive touchdown catches in the end zone… In the open field, JJAW has looked faster, but these catches are all about his size, athletic ability and body control. These are the things we expected him to excel in as a rookie and it didn’t really happen. If he can do these things in games, he’ll at least be a threat in the red zone.
JJAW’s regular season output amounted to 4 receptions for 85 yards on 8 targets.
Let’s go back a little further to 2018. Remember Shelton Gibson? If you’re an Eagles fanatic like me, you’ll probably remember how good he looked during the 2018 preseason. He turned a lot of heads and even earned himself a roster spot.
Here’s a snippet from Bleeding Green Nation on Gibson’s training camp performance:
Speaking of Gibby, I’ve buried the lede! The second-year wide receiver made the play of the day. During an 11-on-11 drill, Nick Foles rolled to his right a little and chucked a pass deep down field into double coverage. An underthrow caused a jump ball situation but Gibson managed to come down with it despite being tightly covered by Malcolm Jenkins and Ronald Darby. Legitimately made me say “Wow” out loud (WOL). Impressive play by the young man who couldn’t even catch a cold last year. Gibson had some more good reps in 1-on-1. He also made a nice diving adjustment on an underthrow by Nate Sudfeld. The 2017 fifth-round pick also drew praise from Doug Pederson after practice. I’d say Gibson is in good position to be the Eagles’ fifth receiver (or sixth at worst).
Again, Gibson did little to nothing for the team in the regular season. He only had 1 catch for 48 yards on 3 targets.
Are you starting to see the trend here?
For as much as I do think Watkins has a chance to contribute for the Eagles this season, I can’t help but be skeptical of the constant praise he’s gotten. The athletic ability is certainly there, and if he’s truly as improved as most beat writers claim he is, he should be able to find his way onto the field. Especially in a wide receiving corps that’s below average — and that’s putting it lightly.
It’s also important to note that it’s probably not that difficult to standout amongst this group of receivers. Especially when you consider DeVonta Smith has been sidelined for the past few weeks. Honestly, as long as you consistently catch the ball and run solid routes, that’s enough to be the best receiver during practice for this team. The bar isn’t very high around here.
Of course, there are also examples of players getting praise during training camp and the preseason and it actually manifesting during the regular season.
During the 2017 preseason, Corey Clement led the team in rushing and earned a roster spot because of it. He quickly became one of the many pivotal offensive weapons during that season for the Eagles, as he finished his rookie season with 444 yards from scrimmage and 6 total touchdowns, along with being the leading receiver in Super Bowl 52.
But for every Clement, there are about 4-5 Shelton Gibsons. That’s just the reality of how training camp and the preseason works.
Obviously, I hope Watkins is part of the former group here. He has the talent, I even wrote about how he could be a sleeper breakout candidate earlier this offseason.
All I’m saying is, let’s not get our hopes too high.