Sirianni: Criticized Watkins An OTA Standout
It’s that time of the year again – when all NFL players look like future superstars because they’re in shirts and shorts, practicing without any actual contact.
For the Eagles, the latest flavor of OTAs is fourth-year wideout Quez Watkins, one of the few disappointing performers from 2022 who entered this offseason with what coach Nick Sirianni termed a chip on the receiver’s shoulder.
Watkins has “done a phenomenal job” this offseason, Sirianni said, without really specifying the drills Watkins has excelled in, or why Watkins specifically has stood above others.
Although coaches typically avoid pin-pointing individual standouts, especially at this time of the year with limited field time and scaled-down sessions, Sirianni said he “had no problem singling out one guy” and named Watkins, adding that the 2020 sixth-rounder has done “a phenomenal job this offseason.”
Sirianni said he “sensed” Watkins was aware of the public criticism that accompanied the Southern Miss product last season for a few untimely mistakes that helped spoil an otherwise landmark season in which the Eagles went 14-3 and went to the Super Bowl.
However, Watkins’ inability to reel in a well-thrown 30-yard pass from Jalen Hurts late in the third of the Super Bowl on 2nd-and-9 at the Kansas City 42-yard line – the ball went through his hands – was one of the infamous lowlights of the Eagles blowing a 10-point halftime lead over the Chiefs.
“He never said this — but I kinda sense [that he thinks], ‘Oh, some people think I stink?’ Wait. Wait,” Sirianni said. “That’s how he’s attacked every day. That’s how he’s attacked practices. I really think he looks really good and we know he’s got a lot talent and I’m excited about that.”
Watkins, a vertical threat with the team’s best overall speed, was somewhat miscast last season as a slot receiver. He was also low on the pass-catcher totem pole, often behind A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.
He finished with 33 receptions for 354 yards, down from his 43-647 season in 2021.
Sirianni said folks inside the NovaCare Complex have Watkins’ back, but it should be noted that one of the team’s free-agent additions was veteran wideout Olamide Zaccheaus, who like Watkins has inside-outside versatility and just happens to be known as one of the NFL’s most sure-handed receivers.
But hey, it’s easier for team brass to paint fans and media as the big bad wolf and make Watkins feel nurtured inside the halls of the team’s complex.
“I really like the way he’s went about his business because he can’t control anything but what he can control,” Sirianni added. “He can’t control what other people think about him. 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’m really excited about how he’s gonna about his business.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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