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2023 Philadelphia Eagles Biggest Make-or-Break Player

2023 Eagles Biggest Make or Break Player

The 2023 season with the Philadelphia Eagles is a make-or-break season for wide receiver Quez Watkins. Watkins has disappointed on the Eagles so far and his inability to provide valuable bench reps was part of the reason the Eagles failed to win it all in 2022.

The 2022 Eagles season was one for the ages, but that has come and gone. It is time to move forward. The 2023 Eagles will try to accomplish something they could not last season; win the Super Bowl. In a way, it is a make-or-break season for the entire Eagles franchise.

Winning the Super Bowl is the only thing that matters for this squad. Ultimately, it will come down to players on the field stepping up to accomplish this goal. While almost everyone stepped up last season, some did not. After three seasons with the Eagles, 2023 is a make-or-break season for Watkins.

The 2023 Philadelphia Eagle Facing a Make-Or-Break Year: Quez Watkins

2020-2021: Early Flashes of Watkins’ Potential

Watkins was drafted out of Southern Miss in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. His rookie season got off to a very slow start as he was injured out of the gates. He only appeared in six games, catching seven passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.

Watkins was much better in his second season. His speed flashed and it created offense for a team that struggled to generate big plays. He caught a 91-yard pass in Week 2 of 2021 versus the San Francisco 49ers, which was the longest reception by any player in the 2021 NFL season.

Over 2021, Watkins appeared in all 17 games and started the final 12. Taking over the number two receiver position, he posted 43 receptions for 647 yards and one touchdown.

The promise was clear. His speed was a nightmare for defenders and allowed him to get open. The then-sophomore averaged 15 yards per catch, which tied 12th alongside stud Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.

2022: A Year to Forget?

2022 was a fantastic year for almost every offensive Eagles player. DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders, and Jalen Hurts all had career years.

Unfortunately for Watkins, he got lost in the shuffle. Watkins regressed. The receiver caught just 33 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns. However, there is a clear reason he did not take off like the rest of the offense: his role changed significantly.

During the 2022 NFL Draft, the Eagles made a splash trade landing Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown. Brown had himself a career year in 2023, catching 88 passes for 1496 yards and 11 touchdowns. Overnight, Watkins went from the clear number two receiver to the number three.

Obviously, with the role change and bringing in a massive playmaker like Brown, Watkins would see fewer targets right? Well, not exactly. Yes, Watkins saw fewer targets than the previous season, but only by 11 targets (51 in 2022 vs 62 in 2021). His receptions went down by 10 and his yards were cut down by 300.

Watkins has the size, speed, and ability to be a playmaker in the NFL. He has to put it all together and be consistent. The move from the number two receiver to the number three should have helped Watkins, not hurt him.

The young receiver is now being guarded by the opposition’s third-best corner nearly every time he is on the field. His speed from the inside slot position should have been a mismatch for nickel cornerbacks, safeties, and the occasional linebacker.

Most importantly, the Eagles frequently use three wide receivers on the field. As such, Watkins’ opportunities were there to be had. Instead, towards the end of the season, head coach Nick Sirianni was leaning towards playing Zach Pascal over Watkins due to Pascal’s superior blocking ability.

2023 and Beyond: How Quez Watkins Can Improve

The two biggest areas Watkins can refine his game are route running and strength. He far too frequently relies on his straight-line speed. He needs to be more explosive out of his brakes. This will allow him to expand his route tree, which is especially important as a slot receiver.

Being stronger can also help in many ways. Breaking tackles and dealing with press coverage are both important. An underrated component to improving his strength is improved blocking. While blocking will not show up on the stat sheet, Sirianni loves receivers that block. This will allow Watkins to be on the field more frequently, giving him more opportunities.

Despite Philadelphia bringing in veteran wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, the Eagles still believe Watkins can be a valuable third wide receiver in 2023.

Watkins spoke about how he was disappointed with how he ended the 2022 season. However, one thing Watkins has going in his favor is that the head coach believes in him.

“I know Quez wanted to make some of the plays that he felt like he didn’t,” Sirianni said. “I think also what he’s saying there is he’s taking ownership and accountability of him getting better and not looking at anybody else, and that’s what you want from your team.”

Main Photo: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports


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