Why Eagles believe Watkins is ready for a ‘breakout year'

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We’ve spent so much time this offseason talking about how much better DeVonta Smith can get, how much A.J. Brown will bring to the Eagles’ wide receiver room and what an upgrade Zach Pascal will be that it’s easy to forget about Quez Watkins.

All he did last year was have the best season by an Eagles wide receiver drafted in the 6th round or later since Harold Carmichael 40 years earlier and become only the sixth NFL wide receiver in the last 30 years drafted in the 6th round or later to have a 600-yard season before turning 24.

He can play. 

And the Eagles haven’t been this deep at wide receiver in a decade. The last time they had three wide outs with 600 yards in a season was 2011 and 2012, with Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant.

Before that, you have to go back to 2002 with James Thrash, Todd Pinkston and Antonio Freeman.

Watkins made for an OK No. 2 last year. 

As a No. 3, he should be even more dangerous.

“He’s going to be a problem,” Avonte Maddox said Wednesday. “If guys want to sit there and put their best guys on DeVonta or A.J. or Dallas (Goedert), whoever you want to call out – that’s an explosive offense I just named – that’s going to leave Quez to have a breakout year."

Watkins’ improvement from 106 yards as a rookie to 647 last year is the largest by any Eagles wide receiver since Chris T. Jones 25 years earlier and the 5th-largest ever by an Eagles WR from Year 1 to Year 2.

1,253 … Mike Quick [1982-1983]
1,122 … Ben Hawkisn [1966-1967]
798 … Chris T. Jones [1995-1996]
677 … Cris Carter [1987-1988]
541 … Quez Watkins [2020-2021]

Even going from No. 2 option to No. 3, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to improve.

“My role doesn’t change,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “We’re all going to compete, we’re all going to do our part. We’re going to do our 1-11th on the field. My role is not going to change. I’m going to continue to do what I do.

“My goals don’t change. My offseason goals don’t change. Just get better every year and come in and produce.”

This offense is really going to put some pressure on defenses with four legit receivers, a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end and a few running backs who are potentially dangerous receivers.

Watkins often saw No. 2 corners last year, but when the Eagles go three wides this year, there’s going to be a mismatch somewhere.

“The first year we were learning, feeling each other out,” Watkins said. “This year, it’s like we’ve got our trust in, we’ve got our foot in the door, now it’s time to unleash.

“We understand each other better. As a group. As a whole offense, we understand each other a whole lot better. We know what we’re capable of.”

Watkins got a lot of work in the slot last year, and he now feels comfortable either outside, where he can use his blazing speed, or inside, where he’s developed a nice feel for making plays in space.

“Last year helped me get out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I played outside all my career (and) college, but moving to the slot got me out of my comfort zone and then I’m able to go inside, go outside, able to do both. It’s just another tool for me.

“Inside it was just finding my way through certain defenders. Outside, I’m just going through one corner, I’ve just got one man to beat. Inside, it’s like an obstacle course. Outside I get to use my speed more. 

“I’ve learned how to play faster so when I was learning, I was playing at a slower pace, but as I went on I feel like I learned a lot playing in the slot.”

Watkins’ 15.1 average in his two NFL seasons is 14th-highest in the league since 2020 and 6th-highest in Eagles history with a minimum of 40 catches.

Good luck covering all these guys.

“Quez, he’s a great player,” Maddox said. “I’ve known he’s a good player since he got in here. He’s fast and he makes contested catches.

"I put Quez up there with those (other) guys as well. He’s a ballplayer, and he can get the job done, too.”

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