Eagles’ Quez Watkins proving to be one of best deep threats in NFL

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Watkins proving to be one heck of an NFL deep threat originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Quez Watkins wants to be known as more than a speed guy.

But there’s nothing wrong with being a deep threat.

Five games into his second NFL season, Watkins is proving himself to be one of the better deep threats in the league.

“I told y’all before that he wasn’t a secret and he’s a big-time player,” Jalen Hurts said after Sunday’s 21-18 win. “He made a big time play and he did a lot for this football team today.”

Watkins’ first two catches on Sunday went for a combined -5 yards, but then he made the offensive play of the game when he caught a 53-yarder in the third-quarter that helped set up a huge touchdown in the win.

Before the deep shot to Watkins, the Eagles had a total of just 118 offensive yards in what was looking like a completely miserable offensive performance.

“Sometimes all you need, right, is a big play,” head coach Nick Sirianni said.

Watkins delivered. Again.

Through five games, the 23-year-old receiver already has three catches of 40+ yards. Those are the only 40+ catches the Eagles have this season.

The only player in the league with more 40+ catches is Ja’Marr Chase. And the other eight players with three are pretty recognizable names: Deebo Samuel, DeSean Jackson, Tyler Lockett, Mike Williams, Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson, Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb. Watkins has put himself in good company.

Watkins has more 40+ catches than 12 teams this season, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with an offense that features Tom Brady throwing to Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

The last time an Eagles receiver had three catches of 40+ yards through five games was DeSean Jackson, who had four in 2013 on his way to a Pro Bowl season.

In Week 2, Watkins reached a speed of 21.62 mph on his 91-yard reception. That’s the fifth-fastest time in the NFL this season. Something tells me he’ll land back on this list against before the season is up.

If you followed daily practice reports from Eagles training camp, you probably saw this coming. Javon Hargrave and Watkins were the two biggest stars of the summer and both are off to very good starts in 2021.

Watkins had 4.35 speed coming out of Southern Mississippi last year when the Eagles took him in the sixth round. He had a promising finish to his rookie season but didn’t get much of a chance. This offseason, he worked hard to improve in all areas of his game and really looked like a different player when he showed up for training camp in late July. He earned a starting gig.

This offseason, Watkins realized that having straight-line speed wasn’t enough. He needed to learn how to use his speed to his advantage.

“Being able to control my speed,” Watkins said this summer, when asked what he learned. “Being able to make my 75 look like 100, being able to make my 100 look like 100. And just being able to be in control of my routes and get in and out of my breaks.”

On Sunday, for the first time this season, Watkins played more offensive snaps (55-47) than Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ first-round pick last season. Watkins earned that.

And he’s earning an even bigger role in the Eagles offense.

The Eagles ought to give him more chances to make plays down the field. It turns out he’s pretty good at it.

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