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The Eagles need to make Quez Watkins a bigger part of the offense

More Quez please.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles drafted three wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. They took TCU’s Jalen Reagor in the first round (21st overall), Boise State’s John Hightower in the fifth round (168th overall) and Quez Watkins out of Southern Miss in the sixth round (200th overall).

If a football fan knew nothing about where the Eagles’ wideouts were drafted and watched the team this year, it would be an easy assumption that Watkins was the one taken in the first round and Reagor was the sixth-round selection.

The Eagles had an absolutely putrid offense against the Panthers on Sunday, pulling out a 21-18 win after trailing 15-3 at one point. There’s an easy turning point to look at that flipped the entire narrative of the game: Watkins hauling in a 53-yard reception from Jalen Hurts. With less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, Watkins’ huge play put the Eagles in a goal-to-go situation. The Eagles were finally able to capitalize on a play of that magnitude, as Hurts ended the drive with a one-yard touchdown run for the Birds’ first tuddie of the afternoon.

Watkins is second on the Eagles behind DeVonta Smith with 240 receiving yards through five games this season. Watkins’ 20.5 yards per reception is tied for the top mark in the league with Las Vegas’ Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs, coincidentally, was another receiver taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, going 12th overall to the Raiders. It would be hyperbolic to say that Watkins is the best deep threat in the league, but he’s comfortably been one of the better ones in 2021.

Watkins’ 91-yard reception against the 49ers in Week 2 infamously didn’t result in a touchdown, nor were the Eagles able to punch it in for one in the red zone after. Nevertheless, Watkins is responsible for the two most explosive players for the Birds through this short season. That’s before even taking into account the plays in which Hurts doesn’t locate an open Watkins at any point on the field. Big plays from Watkins should be able to had more frequently, especially with Smith clearly the Eagles’ top target and the focal point of opposing pass defenses.

This isn’t meant to be a total piling on for Reagor, who’s seen a ton of blame and criticism thrown his way. The coaching staff and organization, however, should no longer view him through the prism of a former first-round pick. They need to evaluate him as the player he is right now and he simply hasn’t lived up to that billing.

The Eagles use 11 personnel frequently, so it’s fine to have both on the field at the same time in that case. Watkins did finally play more than Reagor on Sunday, out-snapping him 55 to 47. Still, the target share is off. Reagor has been targeted 25 times this season, tied with Zach Ertz for the second most on the team behind Smith. Watkins is seventh on the team with only 17 targets. That needs to change fast. By fast, I mean the first possession of the game on Thursday night.