PHILADELPHIA – There are a lot of really good wide receiver duos in the NFL and the Eagles can match any of them with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith but there is some concern about the depth behind the two stars on what is expected to be a significant NFC contender again.
The incumbent WR3 is Quez Watkins, the speedy fourth-year player entering a contract year after a down season. Probably more of an outside-the-numbers player, Watkins spends most of his time in the slot where 533 of his 787 offensive snaps came from. His numbers weren’t terrible — 33 receptions for 354 yards and three touchdowns — considering all the traffic that has to go to Brown, Smith, and Dallas Goedert.
The average-yards-per catch of 10.7, however, tells you that Watkins wasn’t being used as the deep threat too often and his route-running and failure to fight for the football in close quarters hurt him as an intermediate receiver. As a whole, Watkins was graded No. 108 of 113 WRs by ProFootballFocus.com last season.
The Eagles believe Watkins can and will have a bounce-back season in 2023 and perhaps the best way to do that is getting him out of the slot.
Enter Olamide Zaccheaus, the South Jersey native who starred at Philadelphia’s St. Joe’s Prep in high school. Zaccheus, who was graded No. 74 of 113 after a 40-533-3 season in Atlanta, is a more natural slot option, something that could allow Nick Sirianni to give a lot of that work to Zaccheus and place Watkins as the top backup at the Z and X spots outside.
The WR3 and WR4 designations could be interchangeable depending on what you need each week.
Smith, the third-year emerging star who is already a pristine route-runner, offered a short scouting report on Zaccheaus when asked by JAKIB Sports this week,
“Very explosive guy,” Smith said. “You see it when he catches passes, how he catches it. He has the burst and things like that. We joked about it because every pass that he catches, he explodes out like he’s trying to get that YAC.
“So yeah, you can tell that with the ball in his hands, he’s going to be very special.”
Later Smith offered his take on Watkins, who arrived in excellent shape with a chip on his shoulder after ingesting some of the criticism he received.
“Quez has been working hard. He understands the standard we have in the room, not just with him, but with everybody,” Smith said. “I have all the faith in Quez that he’s going to come in and do the things that he’s supposed to do, and he’s going to be a big part of this team.”