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June 09, 2023

Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts are ready to see Quez Watkins prove the doubters wrong

After an uneven 2022 season for Quez Watkins, Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts showcased their trust in the fourth-year wide receiver.

Eagles NFL
6.1.23_Eagles-Quez-Watkins_ColleenClaggett-9943.jpg Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

Eagles WR Quez Watkins

After his sophomore season in 2021, Quez Watkins looked to be a huge win for the Eagles as a sixth-round pick just a year prior. In a super run-heavy offense, Watkins hauled in 43 catches for 647 yards, massively out-playing the two receivers taken ahead of him in the 2020 draft: Jalen Reagor and John Hightower.

2022, however, was not as smooth for Watkins. The arrival of A.J. Brown knocked him down to a slot receiver role, the fourth option in the team's passing attack behind Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Opportunities were fewer, as his numbers fell to 33 catches and 354 yards. 

When finally given a chance, Watkins had two gaffs in Eagles losses as well.

There was his fumble in the Eagles' first loss of the year against the Commanders. Then came his infamous Super Bowl drop. Neither play completely lost the Eagles that respective game, but when a role player has a shot to prove himself and comes up empty, it's understandably going to draw fan ire. 

The Eagles adding shifty slot receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who will challenge Watkins for that WR3 role, also didn't dispel the worries about Watkins from outside the NovaCare Complex.

Nick Sirianni isn't buying into all that talk about Watkins though. Perhaps he knows Watkins is in need of encouragement with the way the public tide has turned against him, but on Thursday, the Eagles' head coach went out of his way to single out the receiver's performance in OTAs.

When asked who's stood out as of late, Sirianni mentioned Watkins, stating, "I have no problem singling one guy out that has just done a phenomenal job this offseason is Quez Watkins. I love his attitude.

"I kind of sense from him, he's never said this, but I kind of sense, 'Oh, some people think I stink? Wait. Wait,' and that's how he's attacked every day. That's how he's attacked practices and I really think he looks really good. We know he's got a lot of talent and I'm excited about that. And I really like the way he's gone about his business because he can't control anything but what he can control. He can't control what people think about him. He can't control anything like that. He can't control things that may have happened to him last year, the opportunities that he got last year or did not get. All he can control is how he works and I've really been excited about how he's gone about his business."

Sirianni was also inevitably asked by reporters about whether the team is interested in All-Pro free agent receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He, of course, shot that down and reiterated his trust in the wide receiver room. 

At practice on Thursday, both Watkins and Zaccheaus got first-team reps alongside Jalen Hurts, indicating that beyond just OTAs finishing up, this will be a true camp battle come late July when the team regroups. 

Hurts himself was asked about Watkins after the Birds' final OTAs practice. Much like Sirianni, he's ready for Watkins to silence the critics. 

"He's been doing a really good job," Hurts said. "He's been playing a number of different positions and he's been doing a really good job at them. Quez is a guy I came in with. I worked out with him before we both got drafted here. We tore it up on the scout team our rookie year and I'm gonna have all the trust in him.

"He's hungry. He uses everything as fuel. I'm glad he's taking that approach. I'm excited to see the show he puts on this year."

I'm not of the mindset that the Eagles need their third receiver to be a true vertical slot guy given the versatility of both Brown and Smith. A more traditional slot receiver like Zaccheaus could bring a new wrinkle to the Birds' offense in the short game, but it's clear the Eagles are going to give Watkins every opportunity to showcase himself as the clear-cut WR3 come training camp.

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