Quez Watkins is feeling it. Sure, it's taken a bit of time for it to happen, for Watkins to build his confidence and know, really know, what kind of football player he can be at the NFL level. A sixth-round draft pick in 2020, Watkins had so much thrown at him last year - learning a new offense, trying to fit into the locker room, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, working his way up to the speed of the game - that it just didn't quite click in.
But now it has. In a big way.
Watkins has emerged as a big-play wide receiver for the Eagles in his second season. He believes he's as fast as anyone in the game and he has certainly shown it in the six games this season. Watkins has 16 receptions for 311 yards, a robust 19.4 yards per reception. He and quarterback Jalen Hurts have developed a tight chemistry and Watkins has delivered with those 16 catches on only 21 targets.
Watkins has seen his snap count increase, along with his production. A young player who idolized former NBA great Michael Jordan growing up and who has studied game film of the likes of fellow wideouts Calvin Ridley, Stefon Diggs, and Davante Adams, Watkins has worked hard at his craft to get to where he is today. What's exciting is that as promising as Watkins has been through six games, he feels like he's just now heading to where he wants to go.
"Every play I'm out there I think I can make something happen," he said. "That's just the mindset to have. Michael Jordan, he's a guy who knew he was going to be double-teamed every night. Defenses targeted him every time down the floor, and he still made big shots and won games. That's the kind of mentality you have to have."
Watkins is part of a young wide receiver corps the Eagles expect to get better and better as the season goes along. After playing 119 offensive snaps with seven receptions for 106 yards as a rookie, Watkins dove right into the offseason. He added 8-9 pounds of muscle, understanding that he had the speed all along and that added strength would help him get off the line of scrimmage and power his way in crowds for territory.
He also worked on the details of the game - his route running, his release, and the strength in his hands. Once Training Camp began, it was apparent to everyone how much Watkins had improved his game.
"Last year was so fast. Everything about it, just a new world," said Watkins, who played his college ball at Southern Mississippi. "It was a great learning experience. I learned that I had a lot to understand about the game at this level so that I could play my best football. You have to attack it. You have to be ready to work hard and stay with it. It's all about consistency at this level, doing it every day. For me, that is always the goal - having a great day every day."
Watkins played 82 percent of the offensive snaps in Carolina and 77 percent against Tampa Bay - and his numbers reflect the trust the coaches have in him. Watkins has three receptions in four different games this year, a strong start and something to build on.
"I love working with Jalen (Hurts) as we grow in this offense and improve," Watkins said. "We're all pushing each other in the receivers' room and making each other better. It's real competitive. It's fun. Now we just have to put it all together for 60 minutes every week. We've had spurts here and there. But you have to be great all the time. That's what I've learned, more than anything. That's the challenge. I enjoy that part of it."
All the hard work Watkins has put in is paying off. And, get this, it's just the beginning for him. The Eagles feel they're putting something special together with Watkins and No. 1 draft picks Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith leading the way at wide receiver. One week to the next, the expectations grow for all of them.
"It's exciting to think about, but we know how much work we have to put in," he said. "We aren't close to being where we want to be. Just keep getting better a little at a time every day. That's what we're trying to do around here."