Eagles’ Nick Sirianni explains why Cuse Watkins is playing more than Olamide Zaccheus – NBC Sports Philadelphia


Olamide Zaccheus did some nice things in the two games Quazz Watkins missed with a hamstring injury, so it was fair to wonder what the snap distribution would look like when Watkins returns.

On Sunday against the Rams, it looked pretty much the same as it did in Week 1.

Lots of snaps for Watkins, not many for Zaccheus.

“That was our plan,” head coach Nick Sirianni said Monday. “OZ has done a good job, he really has, and he does some things really well. And one thing with quaes is that sometimes the abilities of the quaes are not always visible. Like Quaze has to share the ball with a lot of guys, and so you won’t see it — as Quaze did in 2021, you probably won’t see as much because we have AJ (Brown) and we have Devonta ( Smith) and we have Dallas (Goedert) and we have D’Andre (Swift), all different targets.

“But what is unknown about Quez, what may never appear on the stat sheet with Quez, is his ability to stretch the field. His speed is real. And so, a lot of things happen where maybe it’s a slant that AJ catches where Quaze clears the middle to make it a clean throw. So the speed of the quays brings in a real factor.

In Sunday’s 23-14 win over the Rams, Watkins played 52 snaps, while Zaccheus only played nine snaps. In Week 1 and Week 5, when both players were healthy, Watkins defeated Zacchaeus 104–16.

In two games without Watkins, who was out with a hamstring injury, Zacchaeus became the Eagles’ full-time slot receiver. He played 44 snaps against the Buccaneers and 61 snaps against the Commanders. In those two games, Zaccheus had 3 catches for 69 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown catch on an off-schedule pass from Jalen Hurts against the Bucs.

Here’s a look at the production of Watkins and Zaccheus in 2023:

Watkins: 115 snaps, 5 targets, 4 catches, 21 yards

Zacchaeus: 156 snaps, 5 targets, 3 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD

On Sunday against the Rams, Watkins had 2 catches for 4 yards, including a play on 3rd and 2 where he lost a yard despite being blocked in front. It was a game Sirianni was clearly upset about on the sidelines.

While it might not have made sense to force the ball to Watkins at a crucial moment in the red zone, it was a play he had to make. He just has to pick up the first down.

It’s fair to wonder if Zacchaeus wouldn’t be a better and more reliable option at this point. But Sirianni’s point is that Watkins is making an impact on games even when he’s not being targeted.

The Eagles acquired Zaccheus in free agency after spending the first four years of his career with the Falcons. In 2022, he had the best season of his career with 40 catches for 533 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Watkins has been with the Eagles since 2020, when they drafted him out of Southern Mississippi with a sixth-round pick. He has already progressed far beyond his draft status. In 2021, when he was the No. 2 receiver, Watkins had 43 catches for 647 yards and a touchdown. But in 2022, Watkins had a disappointing season that ended in a Super Bowl loss.

During OTAs, Sirianni publicly supported Watkins and talked about how good Watkins’ spring was. It hasn’t translated into production this season. Even if you accept that Watkins isn’t going to get a ton of targets, he still needs to start taking advantage of the ones he does get.

According to Sirianni, the reason we’re seeing Watkins get so much time is because his speed is a threat. For now, that seems to be enough to retain his role.

“We were comfortable with the way we looked and I’m still comfortable with the way our snap count looked yesterday,” Sirianni said Monday. “It’s a game-by-game decision. Again, very pleased with OZ and the things it can do. And obviously like I said, Cuse’s speed is something that defenses have to account for, and I’m sure we’re glad to have him back playing football.

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