Quez Watkins

A chance for redemption as list of most important Eagles continues

Quez Watkins had a disappointing 2022 season but he'll get a chance at redemption in 2023

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins

Quez Watkins didn’t have a good season in 2022. He won’t try to deny it.

“I didn’t play my brand of football all year,” Watkins said at locker cleanout day. “I never played this bad.”

After an impressive 2021 season, Watkins was pushed down the depth chart after the acquisition of A.J. Brown in the 2022 offseason. That helps explain away some of the drop in production.

In 2021, Watkins caught 43 passes for 647 yards and a touchdown. In 2022, Watkins caught 33 passes for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns. But aside from the drop in production, there were the major mistakes, none bigger than a crucial drop in the Eagles’ 38-35 loss in Super Bowl LVII.

But after his disastrous 2022 season, Watkins stood by his locker and vowed to get better. He knew just how to get over it.

“Mentality,” Watkins said. “As Kobe said, you just got to go to work. You’ve just got to put your head down and go in that dark place and just go to work. That’s all it is, regardless of the he say, she say, man, just go to work. That’s all on you.”

The Eagles this offseason added slot receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who should challenge Watkins for the Eagles’ third receiver position. Zaccheaus is entering his fifth year in the NFL and has steadily improved in his career. In 2022, he caught 40 passes for 533 yards and 3 touchdowns with the Falcons.

But the Eagles haven’t given up on Watkins. In fact, when head coach Nick Sirianni was asked to point out one player who really impressed him this spring, he quickly named Watkins. That’s unusual, for the head coach to single out one player like that and it was undoubtedly purposeful.

“I love his attitude —and I’ve said this to him and I have no problem saying it here,” Sirianni said. “Some people — and not in this building, we have a ton of confidence in Quez Watkins, but I kind of sense from him — he’s never said this — but I’ve kind of sensed, ‘Oh, some people think I stink? Wait. Wait.’ And that’s how he’s attacked every day. That’s how he’s attacked practices.”

Is it possible that Sirianni talked up Watkins to increase his trade value? It’s easy to see it through that conspiratorial lens. But it’s also very possible that the Eagles want Watkins know that they support him because it really behooves them to get the most out of Watkins in 2023.

Watkins, 25, is entering his fourth season in the NFL — it’s a contract year for him — and has already overachieved based on his status as a sixth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi back in 2020. But even on a team that features Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert in the passing game, Watkins needs to be better.

The opportunities won’t always be plentiful but he needs to make the most of those opportunities when they arise. He didn’t do that last year.

There are a few things Watkins has going for him, though. He has been productive in the NFL. He offers versatility as a receiver who can line up outside and in the slot. And he has 4.35 speed.

In his three-year career, Watkins has six catches of 40+ yards. So even though the Eagles tried too much with Watkins near the line of scrimmage in 2022, he still has that big-play threat ability. If nothing else, defenses have to worry about that kind of speed.

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