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February 19, 2023

Eagles stay or go: Wide receiver

How should the Eagles handle their receiving corps this offseason?

Eagles NFL
Quez_Watkins_Eagles_Giants_091922_KateFrese39.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Quez Watkins had a disappointing 2022 season, but he's likely not going anywhere.

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' 2022 season is over (a little later than usual), we'll be taking a position-by-position look at which players will likely be back with the team in 2023, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll look at the wide receivers.

Regarding the polls below, they are your votes on what you think the Eagles should do, not necessarily what you think they will do. Please think of them more as approval polls for each player.

Previous stay or go articles: Quarterback | Running back

A.J. Brown

In his first season with the Eagles, Brown had 88 catches for 1,496 yards (for a lofty 17.0 YPR) and 11 TDs on his way to Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. He is the best wide receiver the Eagles have had since that one season of Terrell Owens.

#JimmyVerdict: Hmm, tough one. Stay.

Stay or go: A.J. Brown

DeVonta Smith

Smith is a star receiver in his own right, as he finished with 95 receptions for 1,196 yards (12.6 YPR) and 7 TDs. He also had a strong showing in the playoffs, including a 100-yard performance in the Super Bowl. 

In 2022, the slick route-running, body control freak Smith was a perfect compliment to the physical Brown.

#JimmyVerdict: The Eagles had matchup advantages every week at wide receiver. After years of often horrendous wide receive play, they now have something special in Brown and Smith. Stay (duh).

Eagles stay or go: DeVonta Smith

Quez Watkins

After a rookie season in 2020 during which he had seven catches for 106 yards and 1 TD, Watkins made significant strides in his second season in 2021. He had a fantastic training camp and earned a starting spot in the Eagles' offense. On the season, Watkins had 43 catches for 647 yards and one TD. He ranked third on the team both in receptions and receiving yards, with a big gap between himself and the rest of the Eagles' receivers below him.

Watkins entered 2022 with an interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand, expectations for his play were heightened because of the promise he showed in 2021. On the other hand, he was losing his starting job as a result of the trade for A.J. Brown, and his production was surely going to decline even if his play on the field didn't.

What the Eagles asked of Watkins was to make the most of the opportunities that came his way, and he largely disappointed. 

  1. He fumbled after a catch deep down the field in a loss against Washington. The Eagles might have otherwise won that game.
  2. He was directly responsible for interceptions in games against the Bears and Cowboys as a result of sloppy route running, and seemed to lose the trust of the Eagles' staff on any sort of precision or timing routes thereafter. 
  3. In the Super Bowl, the Eagles dialed up a shot play for him that he should have made, but didn't.

Watkins finished the 2022 season with 33 catches for 354 yards and (10.7 YPR) and three TDs.

#JimmyVerdict: Even with all the frustrating mistakes that Watkins made in 2022, he brings a valuable commodity to the table — speed. The Eagles aren't just going to up and cut him. Watkins will be back in camp, and he should still have a roster spot in 2023, barring a bad summer. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Quez Watkins

Zach Pascal

When the Eagles signed Pascal to a one-year contract last March, the logic made a lot of sense, in that he was a well-regarded blocking wide receiver who could do some of the meat and potatoes stuff that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside did in 2021, but with the ability to actually catch the football when it came his way. 

And that's essentially what he was for the Eagles, playing a minor role in the Eagles' offense as a pass catcher, making only 15 catches for 150 yards and a TD, but doing a lot of the dirty work that freed up Brown and Smith to make plays.

Pascal was something of a victim of his unselfishness, however, as he had his worst statistical season as a pro:

 Zach PascalRec Yards YPC TD 
2018 27 268 9.9 
2019 41 607 14.8 
2020 44 629 14.3 
2021 38 384 10.1 
2022 15 150 10.0 

#JimmyVerdict: Pascal is a free agent, and is likely destined to make something close to the veteran minimum in 2023, whether that's with the Eagles or some other team. The guess here is that the Eagles would like to have him back on those kinds of terms, but Pascal would have to accept once again that the ball simply won't come his way very often unless something bad happens to Brown or Smith. 

I'll bet that while he accepted his dirty work role with the Eagles with pride, Pascal also wants to have the ball in his hands more than he did this past season and he will seek employment with a team that doesn't already have two star receivers. Go

Eagles stay or go: Zach Pascal

Britain Covey

Covey was the team's primary punt returner all season long, but only played 19 offensive snaps, all in garbage time. 

His rookie season got off to a shaky start as a returner, as he had two fumbles and averaged 6.1 yards per punt return in the first five games. Since then, he's been a good returner, with zero fumbles and 12.3 yards per return, including a good showing in the Super Bowl.

#JimmyVerdict: Covey is an extremely low-cost player who showed legitimate improvement in his role as the season progressed. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Britain Covey

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