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February 15, 2023

Quez Watkins reflects on Super Bowl drop

Speaking to the media during locker room clear out on Tuesday, the Eagles wide receiver discussed his missed opportunity in the Super Bowl and his offseason goals.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

As Eagles players cleared out their lockers on Tuesday after a deflating end to an otherwise triumphant season, media members were able to ask what went right for these Eagles and what went wrong as that Super Bowl LVII loss played out.

One player who took those questions on the cheek was Quez Watkins, the Eagles' slot receiver who could not come down with a deep third-quarter catch on a Jalen Hurts pass. Facing a second and nine at the Kansas City 42, Hurts aired one long to Watkins 30-plus yards down field. The ball went through his hands in what will go down as an infamous drop:

A completion there puts the Eagles inside the 10 with a chance to retake a 10-point lead. Instead, they settled for a 33-yard field goal, making things 27-21. That's a four-point swing. You can do the math after the Eagles lost to the Chiefs 38-35. 

"I should've used late hands and I didn't and it caused me to have a drop with a DB on my back," Watkins said to reporters.

If you look at the featured image for this article you can see that Kansas City safety Juan Thornill is draped on Watkins. Come to your own conclusions with how that contact (or lack thereof) compares to the infamous defensive holding penalty called on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry at the end of the fourth quarter. 

The 2022 season wasn't the highlight of Watkins' career. A 2020 sixth-round pick, Watkins surprised in a No. 2 wideout role in 2021. He had 43 catches for 647 yards, a big development for a player of his draft stature in an offensive attack that rarely threw the ball. With the addition of A.J. Brown last offseason relegating him to the No. 3 position as a slot receiver, however, Watkins regressed with 33 receptions and just 354 yards by comparison. 

"I know I took a step back from last year to this year, but it was a very humbling season and I'm looking forward to getting back to work," Watkins said.

"I didn't play my best football all year."

Asked about the new dynamics of the offense, ones that featured a heavy dose of Brown and DeVonta Smith with Watkins moving inside to the slot, Watkins downplayed that possible excuse as an impact on his game. 

"Not really. I'm kind of used to being in and out," Watkins said. "I just feel like I have a future in this game period whether it's inside or outside."

Watkins surprised reporters when he said he had suffered a shoulder sprain during the Eagles' Week 13 win over the Titans in early December. 

"I kind of grasped it well in the beginning of the season," Watkins said about his new assignments in this offense. "But after the Tennessee game, I suffered a grade-2 sprain I've been playing on the last six to eight weeks. And, honestly, it deteriorated my confidence. I wasn't able to play to my best ability." 

Watkins continued on about the injury.

"Honestly... Trying to play through it, I knew I needed to be stronger on the left side, trying to really protect my left side," Watkins said. "After the Tennessee game, after the Giants game, after the Chicago game, I was kind of protecting it of some sort and in that instance, I should've just played ball and not worried about it." 

Asked about what else changed in a season even Watkins views as disappointing, he replied, "Mental. That's all it is. I just have to play through all circumstances on and off the field."

Watkins was a big play threat in 2021. He averaged 15.0 yards per catch including an NFL-long 91-yard reception against the 49ers in Week 2. That shrunk to just 10.7 yards per reception in 2021. Some of that relies on scheme and the coaching staff, as there were a boatload of short screens to Watkins at points in this season, a design that was rarely effective and one that didn't maximize Watkins' straight-line speed. 

What does the offseason hold for Watkins as he tries to get back on the path he was during his sophomore campaign? 

"As Kobe [Bryant] says... You just got to go to work. You have to put your head down, go into a dark place and just go to work. That's all it is regardless of what he says, she says, just go to work."

Watkins knows this Super Bowl loss was a missed opportunity and that his drop will be something that people harp on. Where does the team go from here?

"We got a bigger chip on our shoulder. We have more food on our plate. We still hungry," Watkins said. "We're ready to get back to us, get back to the Super Bowl, honestly, but we're taking it one day at a time in the offseason and going to work. You know what the main goal is. "

This offseason will be one where Watkins tries to "stay humble," keeps his head down and goes to work. 

"Just blocking out all the outside, whatever that may be," Watkins said about his offseason plans. "Friends, family, respectfully, media [laughs] and all that. Just blocking out the noise, honestly. Just go back to work. I kind of want to do what I did my second year. Gotta put the chip back on my shoulder. S**t, put them back on both shoulders." 

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