Eagles Activate Explosive Rookie WR, Sign Ex-Baylor Safety

Quez Watkins

Getty Southern Miss WR Quez Watkins went to the Eagles in the 6th Round and he expects to compete in training camp.

Is the Quez Watkins experience about to begin in Philadelphia? The Eagles activated the speedy sixth-round pick to the active roster on Saturday, along with elevating tight end Jason Croom and defensive back Elijah Riley from the practice squad.

The team also put safety Grayland Arnold on the 53-man roster while taking cornerback Craig James off injured reserve. The moves give them increased flexibility as they prepare for Sunday’s matchup versus Pittsburgh. With Will Parks (hamstring) and Rudy Ford (hamstring) out, the Eagles are thin at safety.

Making matters worse, starting safety Jalen Mills has been filling at cornerback for an injured Avonte Maddox (ankle). Rookie K’Von Wallace technically started last week, although he evenly split reps with Marcus Epps.

“Well, different packages. I wouldn’t consider one the starter over the other in the game,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz explained earlier this week. “They were all just sort of starting in their own package and we sort of compartmentalized and spread the contribution around a little bit.”

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Watkins Exciting Wide Receiver Prospect

Watkins ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time along wide receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine at 4.36 seconds. The Eagles took him in the sixth round (200th overall) after a stellar college career at Southern Miss where he finished with 154 receptions for 2,404 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a dual-threat on kickoff and punt returns, too.

The rookie receiver had been dealing with a hamstring injury since the end of training camp and the Eagles placed him on IR back on Sept. 6. He was activated to the 21-day practice window last week but hadn’t yet hit the field.

“Quez was one of the players we activated from the IR list, so he’s been working in practice,” head coach Doug Pederson told reporters on Friday. “He’s been getting himself back into game shape. We haven’t made a decision yet on his status, but he’s doing well. He’s doing well.”

Now he’s expected to make his first NFL start on Sunday versus Pittsburgh. He’d be the first sixth-round pick to catch a touchdown pass from Carson Wentz, if he hauls one in.

Arnold Adds Value on Special Teams

Meanwhile, Arnold has been a big contributor on special teams over the past two weeks for Philly. He recorded a team-high 15 special-teams snaps (27 total snaps, all on special teams) against San Francisco while being used in the gunner role on a few kickoff returns. Coach Dave Fipp has been praise-worthy in his evaluation of the undrafted rookie free agent from Baylor.

“I thought Grayland for his first game out there not having any preseason reps to be a gunner,” Fipp told reporters, “and work against a competitive double team in a game in the National Football League, I thought he did a really good job. Are there things he could do better and learn from? Absolutely.”

Arnold was a standout in training camp and earned accolades from Eagles veterans as well. He was supposed to be a steal after sneaking through waivers and onto the practice squad.

“I even like Grayland Arnold, based on seeing him so far and go through the cornerback list as well,” safety Rodney McLeod said early in camp. “It’s a room full of depth and talented guys, and hungry guys, too. All willing to compete and that’s what we got to do. We got to create that culture and bring out the best in all of us.”

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