Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season.
25. Quez Watkins
If Quez Watkins never played another snap, you could already consider him to be a successful sixth-round pick. But he’s still getting better and will still be a big part of the Eagles’ offense in 2022.
Watkins, who just turned 24 earlier this month, had a breakout season in 2021, his second in the NFL. He finished the year with 43 catches for 647 yards and 1 touchdown.
It’s crazy to think that this time last year Watkins was presumably going to have to fight for his roster spot at training camp. By the end of last season, however, Watkins was the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver.
To begin the 2021 season, Watkins was the Eagles’ third receiver behind DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor but he finished the year clearly ahead of Reagor. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said after the year ended that Watkins was a legitimate No. 2 receiver in the NFL.
“He has big-time speed, and he has a knack to make plays,” Sirianni said in January. “Of course, you always want to get – the style of offense that we played this year didn't allow for Quez to get as many touches as he probably deserves, but we did everything we could do to win each individual game.
“So, Quez has big-play ability in him. I think out of the No. 2 wide-outs I've been around in the NFL, he can be one of the best No. 2’s that I've been around in the NFL because of his skill set and because of his ability to make plays.”
Last season, Watkins became the first Eagles player drafted in the 6th round or later to have 40+ catches and 600+ yards since John Spagnola in 1985. And he’s one of just five since the merger: Spagnola, Harold Carmichael, Harold Jackson, Gary Ballman.
The fact that Watkins put up those numbers in an offense that didn’t prioritize getting him the football is even more impressive.
The problem for Watkins is that he still won’t be a priority going into the 2022 season. The Eagles bring back Smith after his promising rookie season and also added A.J. Brown in a trade. So the offensive game plan, from a passing perspective, will be focused on trying to get the ball to Brown, Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. Still, the attention on others might help Watkins.
In 2021, Watkins played 68.9 percent of his offensive snaps from the slot. That’s notable because he had never really played in the slot before last year. While he performed well inside, it’s fair to wonder if he was able to utilize his 4.35 speed in there. This upcoming season, Watkins might get some more time outside.
Because Brown has played a decent amount of snaps in his three-year career from the slot and Sirianni will likely get him inside based on certain matchups. That will give Watkins a chance to use his burners outside.
Either way, Watkins is still just 24 and entering his third NFL season. He has ability and began to unlock it last year. It’ll be fun to see if there’s a lot more growth in Watkins’ future.
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