Quez Watkins is all business and that approach is translating to big plays at wide receiver in the Eagles' offense at Training Camp. Healthy after battling a shoulder injury in 2022 – Watkins said on Tuesday that he just started doing pushups a few weeks ago – Watkins has been consistently outstanding working in the passing game with quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Marcus Mariota.
"It's about what you're doing now," Watkins said. "I feel very confident, I feel very mature. It's about playing ball. It's what we are here for. I'm competing, playing my brand of football, being me."
Watkins has enough confidence – necessary to play in the NFL, right? – to call himself an "elite receiver," and the Eagles are going to need him to provide depth and challenge defenses with his vertical explosiveness.
We know about the duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, who teamed so perfectly together in 2022 and are picking up in Training Camp where they left off in the Super Bowl. Both play off of each other so well and present down-in, down-out fits for defenses.
Behind them, Watkins – now in his fourth season – and new Eagle Olamide Zaccheaus – are competing for playing time, challenging each other out of the slot, and bringing out the best in each other with the Eagles in their second week of Training Camp.
Watkins was a topic for Head Coach Nick Sirianni in June, as Sirianni pointed out the speedy wide receiver as someone who had stood out for his spring performance.
"I have no problem singling one guy out that I think has just done a phenomenal job this offseason is Quez Watkins," Sirianni said. "I love his attitude, and I've said this to him, and I have no problem saying it here, some people around here, and it's not in this building, we have a ton of confidence in Quez Watkins, but I kind of sense from him – he's never said this, but oh, some people think I stink? Wait. Wait. That's how he's attacked every day. That's how he's attacked practices, and I think that he looks really good.
"We know he has a lot of talent, and I'm excited about that. I really like the way he's gone about his business because he can't control anything but what he can control, and he can't control what other people think about him. He can't control anything like that. 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've really been excited about how he's gone about his business."
Watkins insists that he is playing with the same chip on his shoulder that he's always had and that he doesn't take into account any criticism that has been hurled his way from the outside. Whatever, he's been on point from the time the Eagles convened in the spring after the not-so-long layoff following the Super Bowl appearance.
"It's a different season," he said. "It's a different me."
How much will Watkins contribute to the offense in 2023? It depends on a lot of things – there is only one football in a passing game that runs through Brown, Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert, but Watkins is set for the challenge. He went from seven receptions after the team drafted him in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft to 43 catches for 647 yards in 2021 and then 33 catches, 354 yards, and three scores last year.
His 2023 is off to a strong start and he wants to keep it going.
"This is Year 4," he said. "It's crunch time. I'm in that mindset of, 'I'm elite. I'm one of the ones that should be reckoned with.'"