Why the Eagles believe Quez Watkins is ready for a ‘breakthrough year’

We’ve spent a lot of time this offseason talking about how Devonta Smith can get better, how much AJ Brown will bring to the Eagles’ wide receiver room, and how Zach Pascal will level up, it’s easy to forget Quez Watkin s.

All he did last year was become the sixth pick in the past 30 years to be picked by the Hawks wide receiver in the 6th round or later, after Harold Carmichael 40 years ago. Round or later NFL wide receiver. 600-yard season before age 24.

He will play.

The Hawks haven’t had such a deep wide receiver in a decade. The last time they had three games for 600 yards in a season was in 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 finished second in OK last year.

As a 3, he should be more dangerous.

“He’s going to be a problem,” Avonte Maddox said Wednesday. “If the players want to sit there and put their best players on Devonta, AJ or Dallas (Goldett), whoever you want to call out – it’s the explosive offense I just mentioned – it’s Will make Quez have a breakthrough year.”

Watkins improved from 106 yards as a rookie to 647 last year, the largest of any Eagles wide receiver since Chris T. Jones 25 years ago, and the most Eagles WR from Year 1 to 5th largest in year 2.

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

There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to improve, even from the 2nd to the 3rd.

“My role hasn’t changed,” Watkins said Wednesday. “We’re all going to play and we’re all going to do our part. We’re going to play 1-11 on the pitch. My role isn’t going to change. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

“My goals haven’t changed. My offseason goals haven’t changed. Get better every year and then come in and produce.”

This offense does put some pressure on the defense, with four legitimate receivers, a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end and some running backs with potentially dangerous receivers.

Watkins often saw the No. 2 corner kick last year, but when the Eagles hit 3-pointers this year, there was a mismatch somewhere.

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

“We understand each other better. As a team. Offense as a whole, we understand each other better. We know what we’re capable of.”

Watkins did a lot of work at the position last year, and now he’s comfortable on the perimeter, where he can use his super quickness, or on the inside, where he creates a great feeling in space.

“Last year helped me get out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I’ve played outside my entire career (and) college, but moving to the slot took me out of my comfort zone and then I could go in, go out, both. It’s just another way for me a tool.

“Inside, it just finds my way through certain defenders. Outside, I just get through a corner and I have only one guy to beat. Inside, it’s like an obstacle course. Outside, I can be more use my speed.

“I’ve learned how to play faster, so when I’m learning, I’m playing slower, but as I’ve progressed, I feel like I’ve learned a lot in slot games.”

Watkins is averaging 15.1 catches in his two NFL seasons, 14th in the league since 2020 and sixth in Hawks history with at least 40 catches.

Good luck covering all of them.

“Quez, he’s a great player,” Maddox said. “I’ve known him since he’s been here. He’s a great player. He’s quick and he’s a controversial catcher.

“I also put Quez with those (other) guys. He’s a baseball player and he can get the job done too.”

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